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Issue 5: Critical Perspectives

Structural Reform For IT Competitiveness in Japan

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I am now in charge of management as the Vice Principal of the Comprehensive School, Sakushin Gakuin, which has 9,000 students and 600 school staff, from kindergarten to university.

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Sakushin Gakuin school

Every day, I am confronted with the closed nature and inflexible style of Japanese organizations. For example, before I became an executive at the school, young and capable staff members who wanted to apply IT and the Internet for the benefit of the school were thought of as heretics and denied the chance to show what could be done. Instead, all decisions were made by senior managers who rose only within the seniority-based system and through personal connections unrelated to IT. Since such senior managers had long since quit teaching in the schoolrooms, they did not understanding either the changing needs of education or the needs of the students and their parents. They submitted to the past precedent of blindly accepting the "nothing-is-wrong" policy and devoted too much time to the politics of the organization.

There is a close resemblance between this type organization and the mode of life of legislators at whom I gazed in those hallowed halls of the Diet. They, too, lacked the vision of precisely grasping a problem before them, objectively analyzing the data and solving it. Instead, they turned a blind eye and postponed action as long as possible during their terms of office. Even as the problems grew more serious, embellishment of data was repeated, and the process delayed again.

My fear is that even with a decisive collapse, most Japanese will simply say the result was our fate and that we the Japanese must submit to the tragic end without investigating those responsible.

Called "structure of psychological dependence," the innate characteristics of such Japanese permeate all corners of our society. Even now, when Japan's telecommunication infrastructure attains number one status, and the country becomes advanced in IT, a clear sign of change is not seen.

Little by little, I believe IT is changing Japanese society; however, the lag in social and political development is still a great problem. Without depriving decision-making authority of senior leaders who are against an information society, and realizing a society where fair and accurate evaluation is the basis of all choice, it will be too late for Japan in this information-intensive global economy.

It is a sad irony that Japan, which is behind in respect to software and content, leads in its telecommunication infrastructure offering some of the world's best in quality and lowest in cost to users. If the right information and applications are not delivered through it, sooner or later the Japanese telecommunication infrastructure will inevitably join other useless public investments, and at what cost in monies and human resources as well as Japan's future place in the world's ever-changing information technology environment?

Editor's postscript: As owners and executive managers, Kei Hata and her husband, Hajime Funada, put their money where their mouths are by completely changing the administrative staff of Sakushin Gakuin School.

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