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Politics

Japan looks to boost productivity with advanced tech

TOKYO -- Japan's new growth strategy focuses on dealing with supply constraints by improving industrial productivity, using the Internet of Things, big data, artificial intelligence and other advanced technology to revolutionize industry.

     An outline of the strategy was released Thursday at a meeting of the Industrial Competitiveness Council. It will be approved by the cabinet at the end of this month.

     "While it was important until last year to figure out how to compensate for inadequate demand, the next step is strengthening competitiveness," Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Akira Amari told a news conference after the meeting.

     The plan includes a national innovation system aimed at deepening collaboration between industry, government and academia by designating research universities and top graduate schools that can compete with leading overseas universities. The strategy also calls for promoting robotic technology as well as implementing reforms dovetailed with planning for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

     Six specific projects are laid out in the plan, including utilizing next-generation transportation systems and autonomous driving technology; solving energy and environmental issues with diversified energy sources; working toward a future society by using robots in such roles as cleaning, security and navigation; and bringing high-quality Japan-style medical services and technology abroad. The government hopes to show off Japan's cutting-edge technology to visitors to boost exports.

     The strategy also aims to beef up cybersecurity. Public and private organizations, including the Japan Pension Service and Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry, have been the victims of hacking recently. This has led to heightened concerns over the "My Number" identification system, which had been positioned as a key part of the government's growth strategy.

     "Learning from the recent leaks, we'll try hard to prevent a recurrence, including meting out harsh punishments to violators of internal regulations," Amari said. "We'll also protect against human error by other organizations." The plan puts greater priority on fostering the security industry, making it an important policy area.

     After thorough safety measures are put in place, the My Number system will be rolled out in January as planned. While the current plan limits its usage to taxes, social security and disaster countermeasures, this will eventually be expanded to include family registries, passports and securities as well. The government plans to set up a medical identification system linked to the My Number system to reduce medical spending, such as by preventing doubling up on medication.

     The strategy as a whole seems to consist mainly of minor reforms, unlike the versions in previous years, which included such steps as a corporate tax cut. The government will need to figure out concrete steps to boost Japan's potential growth rate.

(Nikkei)

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