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Politics

Japan's bureaucracy to go paperless in 1-year digital revolution

Nation will move away from hand-stamping documents as telework spreads

Japanese government agencies will try to move away from physical documents as part of its digitization push.

TOKYO -- Japan plans to take most government paperwork online, streamlining cumbersome processes blamed for delayed payments of pandemic assistance, in an ambitious digital revolution it aims to complete in a year. 

The cabinet on Friday approved the digitization plan as part of its annual economic policy guidelines, which also aim to promote telecommuting and endorse Bank of Japan studies for issuing digital currency.

"We will take on drastic social reforms," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said ahead of the cabinet meeting. A task force of government officials and private experts will be created at the Cabinet Secretariat to oversee the initiative. 

Specifically, the government will push for integrating online systems used by different ministries, agencies and municipal governments. A legislative revision will be submitted to Parliament next year for that purpose. 

Government offices will be encouraged to move away from analog practices that emphasize face-to-face transactions, physical documents and hanko stamps. They will be asked to set numerical targets for achieving digitization. Such targets will help promote telework among government bureaucrats, the thinking goes.

The guidelines will give the go-ahead for proof-of-concept experiments by the BOJ to test the technical feasibility of a central-bank digital currency. This will be planned in coordination with other countries.

The cabinet also signed off on a plan to build a dedicated interbank settlement system to bring down settlement fees to promote cashless transactions. The Japanese Bankers Association will play a central role in the discussions.

The government will also push work reform to make it easier for people working from home expected to take on side jobs. Adult education courses at lower tuitions will also be promoted.

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