Japan Passes Digital Law As Covid-19 Highlights Tech Struggles, East Asia News & Top Stories

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) – Japan’s parliament has approved a law to create a new digital agency as the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, including stumbles in its vaccine rollout, has underscored the need for the country to catch up with its technological backwardness.

The bill, which was passed by the upper house on Wednesday May 12 after being approved by the more powerful lower house last month, creates an agency to further digitize ministries and administrative bodies.

The digital agency, which will launch in September with an initial staff of 500, will also plan a nationwide transfer of local government processes to the cloud and try to facilitate digitalization in the private sector.

From cash rebates delayed at the start of the pandemic last year to low usage of remote work and problems with online booking systems for vaccination appointments, the virus has highlighted Japan’s difficulty to take advantage of more efficient working methods.

In recent days, many Japanese have struggled to access local authority websites to make appointments for coronavirus vaccinations, contributing to a slow rollout that has upset the public and ranked Japan among the slowest in the world. developed nations.

Over the past year, many months have waited for emergency cash distributions intended to help them weather the economic blow of the Covid-19 pandemic, while the process has gone much more smoothly in places like than neighboring South Korea.

A survey released on Monday by broadcaster JNN found that support for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s cabinet fell to 40%, its lowest level since taking office in September last year.

More than 60% of those polled said they did not approve of the government’s handling of the virus and around three-quarters did not believe the government would meet its goal of vaccinating people aged 65 and over by now the end of July.

Mr Suga’s predecessor, Mr Shinzo Abe, urged rethinking traditional office practices last year when he was prime minister, after the custom of hand-stamping documents was found to hamper government goals of reducing the number of commuters to curb viral infections.

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