Ishizuka Sayaka, IT Specialist, Yokohama City Government, Japan

By Medha Basu

Women in GovTech Special Report 2019.

How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.

I belong to the New Industry Creation Division as an IT specialist. My job is creating an environment where multiple stakeholders can collaborate with each other based on our policies for innovations. We think about local issues constantly and try to solve them together with local players. I’m now managing I-TOP Yokohama, an IoT Platform for collaboration among industrial stakeholders, and LIP Yokohama, a Life Innovation Platform for collaboration among medical stakeholders. These are platforms to create open innovation ecosystems.

What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2019?

I took a ride on an autonomous vehicle in Yokohama. It was a memorable moment for me because Yokohama is my birth place. In addition, we launched a demonstration programme for autonomous buses. Ordinary passengers took the bus this year. I can feel that the future is coming from these two events.

What is the best thing that you have experienced in your career?

I’m proud of the IT system to deal with issues related to disasters, which I made with venture companies in a project. We had several huge typhoons this year but the system was operated in several municipalities and contributed to saving a lot of people’s lives.

If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2019, what would it be?

Nurturing talents is important for spreading government technologies in Japan. It is an urgent issue for the public sector to have more people who have the skills such as adapting to new technologies and communicating effectively with multi stakeholders for the digitalisation.

The IT profession is a high paid job in the labour market but in Japan, the salary of public sector is lower than private sector. It is very hard for governments to get great IT talents. If you don’t have talents who can maximise the power of IT, you cannot revolutionise public services through digitalisation.

We should attract tech guys with public mind to the governments and equip existing officers with IT knowledge as soon as possible.

What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2020?

I’m interested in several technologies and tools to realise a smart city. Including IoT, AI, 5G, and 3D scanning, we need to know several technologies related to capturing and processing the data in a city. We also need to know how we can open the data to collaborate with private companies.

What are your priorities for 2020?

I already have several important projects now so pushing forward them is my priority. Japan has many issues like an ageing population, old legacy IT systems, and disasters. I believe my projects contribute to solving these problems like the disaster management system that I mentioned before.

I’m mainly working for Yokohama city but local governments have the same issues in common. I’d like to expand effective solutions to other local governments through close communications with their officers.

What is one challenge you would like to take on in 2020?

Spreading the way of design thinking to local governments. I believe using technologies based on user-centric views can solve many issues. Because public services are taken by most citizens, we need to care more about their usability than private services fundamentally.

As I also work as an information technology advisor for local governments, I’d like to evangelise design thinking to other local officers and contribute to improving public services in other local governments, too.

What has been your fondest memory from the past year? 

I planned and executed Yokohama Gadget Festival, in which more than 100 companies in Minato-Mirai District opened their booths to introduce their IT tools. Through this event, I could create so many connections among participants with the help of large companies based in Yokohama such as Xerox, Nissan, Keikyu, Shiseido and Kyocera.

Collaborations between large companies and SMEs in manufacturing and IT sectors is a key factor for evolving innovation ecosystem in Yokohama. I’m very happy to make this happen through this event under my direction.