“Konnichiwa” to User-friendliness and Web Service Standards in Japan

  • 2016•12•01     Tokyo

    As part of the ongoing work on the ICT-enabled public service delivery project, academic personnel from UNU-EGOV had the opportunity to provide to the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication (MIC) and its IT Strategic Headquarters (ITSH) some insight into current development trends in online service delivery and one-stop portal structures. As part of the continued drive towards greater efficiency and effectiveness, the Government of Japan has set an ambitious target of a 30% budget reduction by the year 2020. Led by the ITSH, the Cabinet Office continues its focus on how Information Communication Technologies (ICT) can underpin this strategic objective.

    Having launched the MyNumber initiative in late 2015 (also known as the “Social Security and Tax Number System”), Japan not only has a unique, 12-digit identification number for all residents, including foreign nationals and children, but such ID number also allows for online identification and digital signatures. The model pursued by the Japanese Government mirrors that of a number of European countries with the same initiatives, including Austria, Estonia, Finland, and Georgia, to name a few.

    To optimise the value added by the MyNumber initiative, past and present government investments in ICT continue to aid the effort carried by the ITSH and MIC to develop a number of strategic initiatives related to web services and data standards. The aim is to increase the user-friendliness of government websites, improve the online services through the application of the “once-only” principle for government data, and reuse both government infrastructures and components.

    The meetings between Japanese officials at the ITSH and MIC were led by UNU-EGOV Academic Fellow and Tallinn University of Technology researcher Morten Meyerhoff Nielsen. Amongst other topics, the meetings covered funding, organisational and decision making models for national citizen and business portals, how to ensure that the portal becomes the national “shopping centre” for government related questions and transactional services, and the use of personas for both service development, user-testing, navigation, and marketing purposes. The dialogue also highlighted the importance of user-journeys, that is, personal and proactive service delivery across organisational silos. Similar to the recent portal evaluation workshop for the Omani Information Technology Authority, the importance of everyday language use, the ease of finding answers to questions, logical and intuitive structure and interphases, compliance with national and international standards for security and web-accessibility (i.e. the WCAG 2.0 AA standard) was emphasised. Throughout the discussion the strengths and weaknesses of various national examples were highlighted, including those of Denmark, Colombia, and the United Kingdom.

    The visit was made possible by Assistant Professor Mashiko Shoji at the Center for Global Communications (GLOCOM), International University of Japan, and Kenji Hiramoto, Chief Strategist at Cabinet Secretariat’s National Strategy Office of Information and Communications Technology. The study was carried out as part of the UNU-EGOV project EGOV for Context-Specific Public Service Delivery and Morten Meyerhoff Nielsen’s current PhD study at the Tallinn University of Technology Ragnar Nurkse School for Innovation and Governance.