IISE Column: Toward Wider Circulation of Japan's Resident Registry Cards
Yoshihiro SUZUKI (Vice Chairman, Institute for International Socio-Economic Studies)
This is an English translation of Mr. Suzuki's column posted on the homepage of the Institute of International Socio-Economic Studies (http://www.i-ise.com/jp/column/column_top.html) on October 4, 2004.
When I am asked to produce my ID, I try to present my company ID card. But company IDs are not generally acceptable, because they are not officially issued IDs as are driver licenses or health insurance cards. Since I do not have a driver license and do not regularly carry my health insurance card either, I have decided to apply for a Juki (resident registry) card. Besides, I am a member of the Japan Productivity Center for Socio-Economic Development, which is promoting the popular use of Juki cards.
I went to a nearby local government office a couple of months ago. There did not seem to be too many people applying for Juki cards, but I had to wait because the government official who was in charge of Juki cards did not know what to do too well and had to follow a manual. The issuance of Juki cards began when the resident registry law was revised in August, 1999. While the Japanese government planned to issue up to 3.5 million cards and 250 thousand cards were issued initially, not many cards have been issued since then.
After having obtained my card, I walked into a library in front of the government office and tried to use my Juki card to borrow some books, but was told that I should present a library card instead. On a later day, I went back to the government office for an official stamp (inkan) certificate and was told that I could not use my Juki card, but rather needed my stamp certificate card for that purpose.
So far I have used my Juki card only once: when I went to the movies and tried to prove my age for a senior discount. Clearly, Juki cards have limited circulation because they are not convenient and not used for many purposes. Officially they can only be used to apply for a resident registry form. Furthermore, a Juki card is valid only in the local community where the card user resides and, therefore, a new card needs to be issued when he or she moves to another community.
In fact, local communities may use Juki cards for various purposes by local legislation. These include (1) library use, (2) issuance of various certificates, (3) application for public facility use, (4) application for medical checkups and reports, (5) hospital use, (6) proof of health care insurance, etc. In each of these areas, however, there are existing card systems, and considerable administrative costs would be incurred for their consolidation and coordination.
The government should adopt a policy of multi-purpose, wider-area use of Juki cards for the sake of convenience for residents. Also, online administrative services must be improved.
It is well known that Korea has revived by utilizing IT since the economic crisis in 1997. According to a recent report by a mission group of the Japan Productivity Center for Socio-Economic Development, the local government of the Konan district in Seoul has set up kiosk outlets in subway stations and other places to issue not only resident registry forms but also tax certificates, real estate transaction certificates, etc. With resident registry cards and finger print identification, residents can obtain various forms and certificates at those kiosk outlets without visiting local government offices.
In Japan the so-called "e-JAPAN strategy" has been adopted to make the country the most advanced IT nation in the world by 2005. For this purpose, the central and local governments have invested in the construction of Juki Net (resident registry network system) as a kind of social infrastructure. Therefore, these government entities must play an active role in realizing simple and high quality administrative service for the sake of residents.
Internationally, the Japanese government is promoting the "Asia Broadband Plan." In this plan, the promotion of e-government and e-community is regarded as an important project. The government is said to be thinking of changing its ODA system to promote this plan.
In Korea, just one company, Samsung SDS, has produced the concept of the e-government/community system. A couple of years ago I interacted with them for the purpose of providing IT assistance to Cambodia and Mongolia, and was impressed by the Korean representatives who effectively established close cooperative relations with those governments. I am afraid that Korea might overtake Japan regarding IT-related markets in Asia, in view of various problems with Japan's Juki Net and Juki cards, supposedly the core of the "e-Japan strategy."