Preface: "Japan is Behind in Internet Development." Japanese Page
Jun Murai, President of JPNIC
Expressions such as "Japan is 10 years behind when it comes to the Internet" are often heard. I thought that we had become inured to such comments to some extent, but still, statements like these are made far too often. It is not possible for people who are involved in the Internet to take such comments lightly. It is natural for them to be offended at least a little. Of course, it is impossible to consider that, technologically, today's Japan would be equal to certain countries' 10 years ago, in 1990.
One indicator of Internet development is not the extent to which leading-edge technologies are used, but to what extent societies and individuals are making use of it. There is a theory and an expectation that the Internet can provide better communication, overcoming gaps and boundaries of age, sex, income, education and geography. However, data from a certain country shows that the Internet's swift impact on the economy is actually widening those gaps. For good or bad, the growth of the Internet in Japan has been from the bottom up, in a very Internet-like way. For this reason, the initiative for development is still generated on a grass roots level (please forgive me if you thought that you were responsible!) where, it may be safe to say, most of the benefits are reaped.
This does not necessarily mean that we are "advanced", but I believe that the Internet community is actually taking seriously its role and responsibility regarding the challenge that makes digital information to contribute to all people and fields. There are signs that IPv6 is finally becoming widespread; this will make it possible for us to maintain vital end-to-end communication. The mechanism for popularization of the Intelligent Transport System field is much more advanced in Japan than in any other country, and can be considered to be spreading evenly to all parts of the country. Many ITS areas have started to consider the use of IP. Popularization of mobile phones with E-mail and Web functions has drastically lowered hurdles faced by these applications. (The sight of young people, sending long messages quickly and effortlessly by operating the keypads on their phones with both thumbs, is something that I don't want show to those older researchers who were struggling to input Japanese 20 years ago.!!!)
As our country had always had a mostly homogeneous culture and social structure, maybe we will be able to lead in the creation and realization of various Internet models that will truly contribute to everyone. Technologies and experiences accumulated in the process will also be utilized to contribute to the global Internet environment. At least, I believe so.
If I try hard to remember, there were few people who said "Japan is behind" before 1995, when newspapers started to use the word "the Internet" constantly. Although many people do not realize it, the word "Internet" was chosen as a candidate for the Word of the Year. Unfortunately, it wasn't selected Word of the Year, but it was one of the Top 10. Following that, the Internet evolved from being just a buzzword into something popular in reality. Many people started to use the Internet, and it soon became part of various lifestyles.
With this development, it has also become apparent that we still have a long way to go. Why is the Internet not helping us to go shopping easier? Why are things still expensive? Why can we not choose our own lawyers and accountants? Why can we not check our driver's license points? Why can we still not take advantage of many public services? I am not sure if we are 10 years behind, but there are many obstacles existing in our society and too much stubbornness, especially in the administration and current system. And I truly feel that, compared to many other countries, this is behind.