Mika Nakano, Director, Information Project Office, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Japan

Women in GovTech Special Report 2019.

How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation. As Director of IT Project Office at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) of the Government of Japan, I have been leading the innovation of public digital services in Japan for over three years. My team has been focusing on the improvement of business entities and SMEs’ experiences through digital-based administrative procedures, such as incorporations, tax affairs, social insurance procedures and grants-applications. The key component of this innovation is a unified authentication system for business entities to realise a single sign-on for several government digital services. Named gBizID, it was first planned in 2017 and launched in February 2019. We will connect the first digital service to use gBizID within 2019. In addition, we are preparing to expand its usage to social insurance procedures and other ministries’ services from April 2020 onwards. At the same time, we have been developing some digital services to realise corporations’ better digital experiences. The most symbolic project is the digitalisation of grants application and procedures. Named jGrants, it is a unified grants applications system which enables corporations to fully undergo grants application procedures digitally. The system will be introduced for some of METI’s grants in 2019 and will be expanded to other ministries and local governments’ grants from April 2020 onwards. In addition, we are preparing a portal for SMEs which will provide recommendations of government supports to SMEs based on the analysis of their data. Also, we are pushing to digitalise the corporations’ applications for some business permissions and notification based on law. As a leader of government’s digital transformation in Japan, my team has aggressively introduced new methods and technologies in the process and the development of those services. Business process analysis, service design methods, communication with prospects and customers, and an agile software development are the ways we have taken. As those methods are not yet matured in the Government of Japan, we can get a lot to learn from our challenges. What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2019? The most exciting thing for me in 2019 is the accomplishment of digital transformation team in METI at a certain level, which I have been challenging to create for years. In 2016, when I took up my position, my team were seriously lacking in human resources. The lack of latest IT professionals and experiences is especially critical. After three years, we continued to recruit IT professionals from the private sector and this year, more than half of the team members are from there. The collaboration with IT professionals and members of administrative backgrounds will make it better to develop public digital services. I expect that they also lead the initiatives to introduce new methods, tools and technologies into our team and public services. If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2019, what would it be? To someone who will start digital transformation in 2020, I would like to share the idea of ‘speed is better than slow’. The change of speed in technologies is overwhelming. AI and BC techs were less expected in 2016 but now we cannot ignore those technologies movement any more. We have to start small, fast and even immature, and through making the base of digital services such as authentications and data standards and accumulating experiences, we have to evolve the digital services continuously. What is one challenge you would like to take on in 2020? Continuance of government digital transformation is my priority for 2020 because our innovation of digital services is still developing. In order to continue, the most important thing is to continue new challenges and making achievements. Now we are making new projects for better corporations’ experience, which is called gBizConnect. It is a data exchange platform between not only government agencies but government and private sectors. It will initially treat data related to business entities’ information, such as corporation’s registry data and accounting data. Through gBizConnect, we can deliver once-only experience for corporations after 2021. What has been your fondest memory from the past year? This is not my own experience and even not related to my current business. But for me, this is one of the fondest memories, and also, this is the strongest fuel for me to realise digital transformation in Japanese public sector; a child abuse case in Osaka more than 10 years before. Two small kids died long after their mother left them neglected at home. Some public offices had known the case but they could not use the information enough and help them. Through digitalisation and appropriate data usage, I would change the Japanese society to which we can help families and children who are suffering and are not being addressed.