Marc BELIVEAU (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and GLOCOM Fellow
What will be a "Made in Japan'' IT revolution and what could be the imprints of its Regulatory Reform Committee? By its own definition, the IT revolution may not be so much a "Made in a country" policy framework as it has become a global phenomenon. Of course, there could be a leadership role taken by one country in supporting the creation of the technology and its widespread use by consumers, but once it is unleashed, the "revolution" has a life of its own, in the information age.
People usually don't get so excited when the regulators get involved in something. Many fear that their involvement could slow down the dynamic of the development process of its industries while searching for new rules of conduct. Generally, regulators tend to favour more regulations to replace the old ones. A radically different perspective could free up the process of change.
Mr. Yoshihiro Suzuki has taken a broad approach in explaining what a "Made in Japan" IT revolution could achieve as he strongly believes in an important contribution to be made by the Regulatory Reform Committee which is advocating deregulation. As he points out, "the culmination of the IT revolution will be the birth of a new society". Therefore, Mr. Suzuki presents the task of the Regulatory Reform Committee as being among the most challenging, the most difficult and the most rewarding, in bringing the benefits of the IT revolution to Japan.
In his description of the IT revolution, Mr. Suzuki outlines that it is "a social movement" bringing fundamental changes and where values will be quite different from the current industrial society as there will be a shift to the principles of personal responsibility and autonomy.
Mr. Suzuki advocates an ambitious role for the Reform Committee when he mentions that "the challenge is not simply to replace procedures with electronic ones". Choosing the deregulation pathway could be a progressive step forward in bringing a new dynamic perspective.
Therefore, the task is to propose a constructive and innovative approach that would shape the values of change within a society. The challenge is to create a new infrastructure of knowledge in allowing the flow to run free instead of holding it back. It means that some bureaucratic processes have to be out of the way.
Mr. Suzuki makes it clear that the task for Regulatory Reform Committee is "not just to revise the existing legal framework but to create a new one adapted the new growing world". The homework ahead is enormous. There will be inevitable clashes between the "old" and the "new" economy. Some decisions will be viewed in terms of winners and losers. This may be politically threatening for the government. In addition, there will be pressure from outside as Japan operates in a global environment.
In providing a list of many topics to be dealt with, Mr. Suzuki also recognises the fact that to proceed with deregulation, some major issues have to be discussed in public forums as many of the new directions require the understanding of the public and its support in order to be successful. The task for the Regulatory Reform Committee is extremely difficult as many of their decisions will refer to the untested ground, as part of the information era. (i.e.: the fusion of broadcasting and communication, e-commerce, etc).
The IT revolution and the scope of its applications have the potential of rejuvenating the Japanese economy. The Regulatory Reform Committee ought to get its rewards in proposing a more flexible system that is efficient and could serve its purpose for a long period. Mr. Suzuki suggests a greater sense of accomplishment if the IT revolution means "increasing Japan's growth (..) making it easy to forget the need for structural and regulatory reforms that are subject to a great deal of political resistance". This illustrates that any deregulatory process never operates in a political vacuum. If the IT revolution can reduce the level of stress associated with change and if it could generate wealth and new employment opportunities, this by itself will be quite a reward. After all, the notion of change in Japan is not to cut off drastically with the past but to add value-added results for the future.
Hopefully, let's believe that the courage and the vision of the Regulatory Reform Committee could leave its imprints in a 'Made in Japan" IT revolution.