It will take some time to get used to “Wearable Tech”

This picture is about 10 years old. It was taken when I was at the MIT Media Lab. It’s not the Google Glass that is currently making headlines. At the time, some researchers were experimenting with 24-hr wearable computers.
Now that attention is being paid to “wearable” tech, my reaction is, “Eh? We’re still not there yet?” The following is an excerpt from a magazine article that I wrote in April, 1999.
Here at MIT, wearable tech has been a popular theme for the last two years. Even in Japan, IBM and Toshiba announced trial products in 1998, a newspaper company held symposiums, and it seemed that the products were on the verge of becoming practical for everyday use. It seems that “The cyberpunks have landed!”
Let’s take a look at someone who really wears a computer. It involved an eye-glass style display and headphones. Some even have a goggle-type head-mounted display such as those that became popular for use in virtual reality. For input, one has the choice of voice command, buttons in the palm, or keyboards attached to clothing.
This device isn’t used like a computer. In the case of a computer, one decides to use it, sits down in front of the screen, switches it on, and waits for the OS to load. In the case of wearable tech, the switch is always on. It’s more of an aid that one can use while walking, thinking, and working. A PC it’s designed to require all of one’s attention, and it’s difficult to be a “nagarazoku” (a young person who watches TV or listens to the radio while working). Wearable tech was created for just such people.
For the time being it will only be used for special applications, for example factory and warehouse work, or healthcare for the elderly. However, applications will increase rapidly. Technologically this is no problem. The difficult aspect is getting people to become accustomed to the idea. Here at the Media Lab there have been cyberpunks wearing computers for years, but the day when others don’t look at them as “strange” is still far off.

 How about it? Do you get the impression that things haven’t changed at all? It was when we were switching from desktop to laptop. I went to MIT with my Sony VAIO, many people were impressed. That was the last great era for Japan.
 Since then, the “always on” nature of mobile communication has become a reality. Devices got smaller and the smartphone was born.  The cloud was developed and all work went online.

 After 15 years, we finally have reached the 24-hr always-on stage. However, it can’t be said that we have fully accustomed ourselves to this yet, without looking at it as strange. It will still take time. Cool wearable tech. After 15 years, that’s the point.


Unification of Intellectual Property Policy

 The cabinet decided upon a basic direction for the creation of intellectual property policy for the first time. I’m glad to see that they have recognized the importance of an intellectual property policy. The important point regarding this policy is that it must involve “cooperation and integration.”
 First, there’s “Big Data.”
 This time, I’ll take a close look at big data in terms of the vision for intellectual property. How should we use publicly shared data? This is an important element of IP policy. On the other hand, this is also being debated by the IT strategy department. There needs to be cooperation, or even integration, between IP and IT policies.
 In order for the data from federal and local governments to be released to and used by the public, it needs to be free of copyright. Some of the possible approaches include amending the copyright act such that public data doesn’t have a copyright attached; the country abandoning the copyright; or the use of 2nd generation licenses such as the Creative Commons license. However, to put any of these in place will require the power of the government.
 I am the director of the “Consortium on the Promotion and Distribution of Open Data.” The activity is attended by leaders from eight relevant government ministries and agencies, local government leaders, industry, and research facilities with the goal of information dissemination and case development. I want the government to heed our advice carefully.
  The same goes for the computerization of education.
  Our vision for IP involved the computerization of education, particularly through the use of digital textbooks. However, this requires that every child have a device and access to a cloud environment before it can be implemented. Before IP can be implemented in educational content, the digital environment must be in place, and that is a problem for IT. This is why the IT and IP policies must be integrated.
 Reform of the textbook system must be dealt with in the IP policy, and creation of the digital environment must be dealt with in the IT policy, and these will take many years to accomplish. The government has made clear plans, but there are hurdles to actual implementation. We require their dedication to this goal. When I lead the Digital textbooks & teaching Association we released a “Proposal for the Computerization of Education” that included a provision for digital textbooks and offered support for the 100 leading municipal governments and educators.
 With mid- and long-term challenges set, the government created the “Cool Japan Promotion Council” as a short-term policy. With manga, anime, and games at the core of pop culture, this also involved fashion, food, traditional crafts, sightseeing, and anything else that could display Japan’s economic and cultural “soft power.” In particular, our mission was to promote Japan in the international marketplace.
 To advance a policy like this requires the same order. It involves breaking the vertical segregation and putting all one’s effort into it. For example, the Cool Japan policy involved the eight sections of the government including cabinet; general affairs; arts; Health, Labor, and Welfare; Economy, Trade, and Industry; diplomatic relations; agricultural and fishery; and financial. These ministries got together at the same table to brainstorm and implement a plan, but this still doesn’t match the longstanding efforts of France or Korea in this area.

 What’s more, the Cool Japan policy is a short-term one. The IP policy is a mid-term policy that involves planning, diplomacy, and education. It will be important to change the vertical structure of the ministries and agencies to a horizontal one, and to carry out the horizontally segmented short- and mid-term policies in a synchronized manner.


A Vision for Three Directions in Intellectual Property

 The government intellectual property agency has proposed an “IP Vision.” It summarizes the past 10 years of strategy and sets the strategy for the next 10 years. As chairman, I was responsible for coordinating this project.
In the beginning I wanted to talk about the importance of intellectual property to Japan and to outline the priorities contained in the proposal. The message would be called, “The importance of taking a global leadership role in intellectual property.”
For Japan to take a favorable position in this era of globalization with no natural resources and no access to cheap labor there is little choice but to rely on the production of intellectual property.
I wanted it to sink in that of all the country’s policies, the policy regarding intellectual property was of utmost importance.
The intellectual property strategy must be one of the pillars of the nation’s policies, right alongside national defense and education. In terms of industrial policy, it’s more important than agricultural or commercial policy. Even in TPP negotiations, it’s important to recognize that the IP field is essential to the future of Japan. I wanted to make those points as strongly as possible.
In regard to these three points, I set three paths.
1)     Policy Reform
 The top subject consisted of the promotion of three areas: user-created content, sharing and education, and big data. Ten years ago, the content policy was centered on the entertainment business, but for the next ten years it should address issues that involve the citizenry as a whole. Not only content produced by professionals, content made by everyone will take the lead.
 Japan’s strong point is everyone’s power; children and adults working creatively to produce movie and music. I want our policies to boost this. I’d like to describe the steps we made to improve the computerization of education. I lead the Association of Digital Textbooks & Teaching, and those involved were very interested. However, the dedication of the government is in question. At the same time, we concentrated on expanding the creation and use of content. The expansion of the content industry has great repercussions on industry as a whole.  It’s necessary to widen our field of vision with a GDP of 470 trillion yen, a 12 trillion yen content industry and an 85 trillion yen IT industry.
2)     Raising Priorities
 I clarified the manner in which resources would be allocated and prioritized. It is important to raise the priority of intellectual property strategy in the whole national policy. We needed to move from an agricultural and industrial society to an information society. It’s a thesis one might expect to hear from an elementary school student, but our policies were reversed for some reason. In a country without natural resources we have no choice but to rely on wisdom, and I wanted to reflect the importance of that in our policies.
3)     Development of Promotion Systems
Government must be unified in creating an all-encompassing promotion system. By getting eight government offices to the table to brainstorm measures we were able to advance cooperation. I think that this is a great achievement. What’s more, the “Cool Japan Promotional Council” has been established, along with the “Pop-Culture Subcommittee Meeting” that I was in charge of, and it’s important that we coordinate our policies.

Further cooperation is required. Of course it’s being discussed at the IT strategy division, but it’s natural that hardware and software should be thought of as a single unit. The nineties was the era of “Wintel” (Windows and Intel) and a time when hardware and software were divided, but recently we see the unification by Apple of the iPhone and iTunes; the advancement of Google’s strategy with web and Android; and Amazon’s assault with the Kindle. Japan must shape a strategy that considers the unification of IT and intellectual property as well.


Conversion of the Use Policy of IT

 According to the WEF (World Economic Forum), Japan leads the world in terms of consumer sophistication. That is Japan’s strength. According to a report by Cisco, Japan is number 1 in terms of the amount of data per mobile user, at five times the global average. The country produces information largely targeted at the younger generation. In Japan we should concentrate on policies that help with user literacy.
 There are three issues to address: Low public use of IT, ignorance of IT at the management level, and IT ignorance at the societal level.
Regarding IT use, when compared to Singapore in terms of online sales, shipping and logistics things are fairly equal. However, in terms of education, administrative services, and business management a large difference can be seen. According to a white paper on telecommunications that ranked interaction with public officials using the internet in 18 countries, Japan placed last. To make matters worse, according to studies by McKinsey, the amount of data accumulated in Japan over the last 10 years is 1/9th that of what was accumulated in North America. Even if the amount of individual data use is high, the use is not evenly distributed throughout society. That is why we can’t capitalize on big data. Young users are advanced, but at a societal level the lack of awareness is a large problem. When I entered government 30 years ago, in the middle of communications privatization, it was during a new media boom. There were new stories about the telecommunications industry on a daily basis. Since then, IT policy concerning communication network maintenance, terrestrial digital development, and maintenance of a competitive environment were central issues. Most of those have been achieved.
  If you read a newspaper these days, news like that doesn’t stand out. If you read a weekly IT column then you’ll only find stories about using IT in education, content copyright problems, net elections, drug sales on the internet, and net sales.
  This isn’t a problem with IT provison; it’s a problem with IT use. Abundant preparation doesn’t necessarily mean abundant use. The important point has shifted to this: How to get governments and hospitals and schools to use new media effectively. Let all students learn in a digital environment. Let products be purchased safely over the internet and on mobile devices. In other words, policy must shift from one of presentation to one of use.
  It’s a shift of viewpoint from what to do “with” Information Technology to what to do “USING” Information Technology culturally and financially. From a standpoint of industrial policy, the question shouldn’t be what to do with the 85 trillion yen IT industry; it should be how to use the IT  to improve the 470 trillion GDP of the nation.
  In response to this, the current government has raised a banner and called for regulatory and institutional reform, open data, and a policy of one machine per person in education and human resource development.
  As cabinet secretary of the Intellectual Property Division in the government, my menu consists of 1) facilitating the use of cloud services in new industries, 2) promoting the use of big data in business, 3) archiving national cultural assets, and 4) promoting the use of IT in education. This is how we are putting intellectual property to use over the internet at the center of our policies.
 The problem is, this hasn’t become reality yet. Policies don’t become policies until the government puts them into action, so these are still just ideas. My push for policies regarding open data and digital textbooks are still mid-way.

  Speaking of use policies, I’d like to see the expansion of online elections, computerization of medical information, the restoration of social games… the menu is endless. What’s needed now is a prioritization of IT policy, particularly in increasing awareness of the importance of IT.


The Advancement of Open Data

 In the policy room, my work involving big data was comprised of increasing the amount of data and raising awareness of big data in society. This brings us to Open Data. Starting at the federal and local government level, public data must be released for use by citizens such that it might lead to the creation of new services. I took part in the “Consortium on the Promotion and Distribution of Open Data” as Director and chairman of utilization and dissemination. The event was attended by relevant government ministries and agencies, local government leaders, industry, and research facilities with the goal of information dissemination and case development.
 There were three points for the consortium to accomplish.
 First let’s talk about the positive side. The first matter was to create a business model. The incentive for releasing and sharing public data is basically good faith. We wanted to create an avenue for business to profit from it. To create sustainability, we would have to create a model for making profits.
  Next, we needed to reduce the negative aspects. We had to foster a sense of security. The more data becomes open, the less anxiety and resistance there is to it. We wanted to draw a clear line between open and closed data with clearly outlined privacy policies.
 Thirdly, we needed the continued cooperation of industry, government and academia. The government must do more than just output data; they must output money as well. We expect them to contribute capital towards the creation of uses for the data, until such activity is taken over by citizens. This should be seen as infrastructure investment rather an industry support measure.
 According to the consortium, government data should be free from copyright. I want to make this a reality as rapidly as possible. I’m thinking of an approach in which the government could release data using a second generation approach like the “Creative Commons” license.
 To be honest, when I started this work I had every intention of forcing the release of public data, but after working on it I realized that the matter of opening up public data was a trivial one. The real challenge would be to have the massive amounts of private and corporate data released and used as open data. It became clear that “everyone’s data” must have a public nature.
  I greatly respect the cooperation of the participants. The Japanese government: Cabinet; General affairs; Education; Health, Labor, and Welfare; Agricultural; Economy, Trade, and Industry; Diplomatic relations; and Financial, many of whom did not get along, all came to the same table to work out a plan together. Surprisingly, they have plunged forward in the direction of data openness. Even though open data doesn’t offer a direct return, people from federal and local governments, industry, and the private sector have all participated willfully in sweating out the details.
  There’s nothing to do but compliment their efforts. There’s an event every year that awards the excellent efforts of consortium members. I want to continue to continue to support those efforts.