Opening Speech

Mr. Yoshio Mochizuki
Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Japan (Read by Mr. Kaoru Ishikawa) (Translation)

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank you for coming from European and Asian countries and also the European Commission to take part in this ASEM Seminar on the Digital Opportunity. This seminar is based on the decision taken at ASEM III, which took place in October last year, and the initiative for the digital divide that was adopted there. This is the first seminar based on that initiative. Beginning today, for the next two days, we have members on the frontline of information and communications technology (IT) and policy implementation. We are proud and honored to have this seminar here in Tokyo.

It is given that IT is an important driver for growth worldwide. Here in Japan we feel it is important that every citizen be given the opportunity to live a fulfilling life and also to enhance the economic competitive edge. The effective use of IT, we feel, is important. The e-Japan Strategy was thus adopted on 22 January to advance policy priorities to make Japan a leading IT country in the world in five years.

At the same time, we feel that it is important to resolve the international digital divide. Prior to the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit last year, we announced a US$15 billion comprehensive cooperation package to be outlaid over the next five years. We have dispatched policy dialogue missions to implement this package. At Okinawa the Okinawa Charter on Global Information Society was adopted and the Digital Opportunity Taskforce (dot force) is in action based on the charter. There are many other forums active in IT, ASEM being no exception. IT represents not merely technology, but the power to change society, and this is recognized in Asia and Europe. I hope that various activities in the international community, including those in ASEM, will have a positive impact on each other and contribute to a development of a global information society.

Information society calls for the recognition of IT as a tool to enhance the autonomy of individuals. It is important that each individual is able to develop their potential and realize their wishes and dreams in life. IT should be a tool to make a society that fulfills those wishes, a society in which everyone can benefit from high quality medical services, the highest level of education, a society in which distant family members and friends can communicate better, and a society in which those with disabilities and advanced age can enjoy active social participation. Above all, to be able to share your local culture and tradition, the use of IT is important. IT has a tremendous power to change society and that means it has not just positive, but perhaps negative, impacts as well. However, the negative aspects must not make us timid or negative in diffusing or developing information technology. IT should be defined within a broader framework and a vision harnessed that enables IT to be used by all in constructing a desirable society.

The title of this seminar, ASEM Seminar on the Digital Opportunity, was adopted with such issues in mind. The first session, which will follow this opening speech, will focus on how best to use IT to achieve social goals. The following sessions will focus on building infrastructure and the training of human resources. The final session will focus on the role of government.

There are many international efforts, and this seminar will have many discussions at the working level with the aim of sharing experiences to improve the understanding of policy options to resolve the digital divide. I hope that you will participate actively in the two-day seminar. It would be my pleasure if you could bring back home something from the seminar to utilize a future-oriented society building. I wish you well and I thank you very much.

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