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Coronavirus contributes to Japan’s digitalization

COVID-19 Outbreak

Japan has entered the Golden Week holiday. It is usually the time for many people to enjoy vacations in the country or overseas. However, because of the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) this year, the government is requesting us to stay at home. Many people feel stressed about by the inability to freely spend precious time of our  lives.

The Japanese people are often said to be people who hate change. Historically, Japan needed major external factors to change, such as the arrival of black ships (Perry Expedition) and wars. However, now, the deadliest coronavirus outbreak is changing the way we work and live in Japan. The changes are not all bad: 

Telework

Because it is difficult to manage their subordinates, some people have a negative opinion against telework. However, companies have to implement it in response to the government’s request. Depending on the type of business, teleworking may be difficult for some people. If telework becomes popular, it will help alleviate commuter rush-hour crowding. In addition, performance-based personnel evaluations may become more sophisticated, resulting in higher productivity. Also, on a video meeting, since only speaker is displayed, you may not even notice the existence of the persons who do not speak in the meeting. So, it may become a trigger to reduce unproductive meeting with many attendees. 

Breaking away from Hanko culture 

One of the problems we found when trying to promote telework was the task of affixing a Hanko seal, which is used instead of signature on Japanese official documents. It is said that many people come to their offices to affix a Hanko seal. The penetration rate of electronic contracts is 43.1%, according to a survey conducted in 2018. Without a doubt, electronic contracts will become more prevalent in Japan. 

Distance education

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, there are major obstacles in the field of education. On February 27, the government requested temporary close of all elementary and secondary schools and high schools, and Japan has stopped  education. The problem is that information technology is rarely used in the classroom. The government says it will distribute one device to each child, but it will take some time.

On the other hand, copyright handling for educational materials used in distance education is one step ahead. The revision of the Copyright Law established in May 2018 makes it possible to send educational materials online without the permission of the copyright holder. Originally it was scheduled to become effective by May 2021, but it was pushed forward to April 28 2020. In fact, it is necessary to pay compensation to a copyright management organization in order to use educational materials in distance education, but the amount of compensation has not been agreed. Considering the current urgent situation, the copyright holders agreed to the use of their copyrighted works without compensation only for fiscal year 2020. 

Telemedicine

The government announced on April 7 that it will improve the medical system so that patients can use telemedicine even at the “first visit”. Currently, the face-to-face medical examination is required in the case of the first medical examination at the medical institution or a new medical examination for a new symptom / disease. However, with the rapid spread of the coronavirus infection, the government  has decided to deregulate for a limited time to prevent nosocomial infections.

As mentioned above, the digitalization of Japan is likely to proceed in the form of being pushed by the coronavirus. Even after the coronavirus infection is healed, the movement of people will decrease for a while. I’m wondering in the pandemic how our life and business are changing.  

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