Japan's Suga aims to get flaghsip digital agency running by autumn 2021: Nikkei

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has asked the government to speed up preparations for his flaghisip new digital agency, his digital minister said on Friday, which a newspaper said he aims to get up and running by the autumn of 2021.

FILE PHOTO: Yoshihide Suga speaks during a news conference following his confirmation as Prime Minister of Japan in Tokyo, Japan September 16, 2020. Carl Court/Pool via REUTERS

Creating an agency to accelerate the digitalisation of Japan’s outdated government administration has been a key pledge of Suga’s, who was elected premier on Wednesday.

Takuya Hirai, digital transformation minister, said during a media briefing Suga had told him to accelerate preparations and that he and other government staff members would gather this four-day weekend to discuss the project, and a schedule.

The Nikkei newspaper earlier reported that Suga’s administration was working towards getting the agency off the ground by autmun next year and planned to submit a bill in parliament for its creation in January, without citing sources.

Asked how long it would take to set it up, Hirai said: “I think the premier will give us specific instructions.”

The agency will spearhead efforts to make administrative work more IT-friendly, and speed up the process by consolidating various functions spread across ministries, the Nikkei said.

To prepare for the launch of the new agency, the government would create a committee that may be headed by an expert from the private sector, the newspaper added.

In Japan, less than 12% of administrative work is transacted online, according to the Japan Research Institute think-tank.

While the government has made “digital transformation” its main policy plank this year, the switch has proved difficult due partly to a vertically structured bureaucracy that hampers efforts to use common platforms for administrative work.

Suga has pledged to make sweeping changes to overcome the digital woes, which were blamed for delaying delivery of cash payouts to help citizens weather the impact of the novel coronavirus.

Reporting by Leika Kihara and Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Chris Reese, Lincoln Feast and Ana Nicolaci da Costa