Japan is home to booming tech businesses from Nikon to Nintendo, but its public sector trails “behind in digitisation” says Kotaro Tamura, previously a Senator in Japan and a former-advisor to Premier Shinzo Abe.

This is having an impact on the country, with governments facing difficulties adjusting to virtual meetings and leading to a reduced presence on the international stage. Meanwhile, hesitancy to adopt remote work is costing Japanese businesses valuable talent, shares Tamura.

He discusses how Japan needs to rethink work in a post-pandemic world. He also shares how the country is learning from Singapore’s tech journey.

Reflections on the vaccination rollout

Japan was one of the slowest countries in terms of their initial vaccination rollout, says Tamura. But it is now among the fastest, with 60 per cent of people fully vaccinated in a population of nearly 126 million, wrote Japan Times.

The work of former Prime Minister Suga was vital to this successful turnaround, Tamura highlights. Suga struck a successful deal with American vaccine manufacturers to secure an adequate supply for the country.

Second, the former Prime Minister was able to coordinate the vaccination rollout amongst Japan’s local governments. One key way that the national government was able to roll out the vaccine across the nation was promoting a “sense of emergency”, he identifies.

Japan’s evolving workforce 

There are three key steps that will help Japan adapt to remote work, and thrive in a post-pandemic world.

First, Japanese society should become comfortable with virtual communication. Previously it was regarded as impolite to interact virtually, with employers questioning why employees don’t want to physically enter the workplace, he explains.

This issue is also carried over to Japan’s diplomatic relations. The country has lost some of its international presence due to its limited experience with virtual communication and lack of English language skills, Tamura shares.

Second, society will need to accept the changing priorities of the younger generation.

Tokyo, the central urban hub, is losing its population as the younger generation moves to more rural areas. Remote work allows people to keep their jobs while enjoying the countryside’s bigger houses, fresher food and better education, Tamura highlights.

Second, businesses should embrace this shift, as they will have first pick at the best talent available, he says. The old-fashioned companies that require employees to undergo long commutes to work in the office are losing talent, Tamura identifies.

Creating a digital society

While Japan can learn from Singapore’s plans to manage Covid-19 as an endemic disease, it can also look to Singapore’s use of technology. Japan is good at handling things in an analogue way, still preferring in-person meetings and using fax machines, Tamura shares.

But with digitalisation, things can move faster, he states. Japan has identified this as an area of improvement, demonstrated by the recent creation of its Digital Agency. This new organisation looks to make the country’s public sector more efficient through technology.

The digital tools that Singapore adopted during the pandemic are one key area that Japan can learn from. The development of the TraceTogether app for contact tracing, and the delivery of public service announcements over Whatsapp, stand out to Tamura.

The future of Southeast Asia 

The developments and future of Southeast Asia is now Tamura’s key focus. The region’s incredible diversity, in government, religions and stages of economic development, holds great potential for lessons.

Whether it’s the developments in Myanmar, or the evolving relationship between China and the USA, the region has to be re-understood every few years, Tamura believes.

Individuals from outside of the region often see it as one singular body, but he believes its an area of “incredible diversity”.

Differing styles of government, the different religions across nations and the unique stages of economic development, all make the region diverse. These factors make the region more diverse than the members of the EU, Tamura shares.

New tech innovations, as well as geo-political issues, creates diversity in the region. One example is the development of non-fungible tokens, which are unique virtual items, often artworks, that are bought and sold, wrote The Guardian.

Tamura will share his insights on the region’s tech progress at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. He is leading a course to prepare private and public sector leaders from Japan to conduct business or interact with Southeast Asia.

Technology is not only helping nations overcome Covid-19, but it is also helping to shape a post-pandemic future. Becoming more familiar with hybrid working and the virtual world can help Japan to thrive.

Find out more about Tamura’s course here