Diplomatic Bluebook 2001


D. The Information and Communications Technology (IT) Revolution

1. Background

The year 2000 started with concerns regarding the so-called Y2K computer problem, highlighting the extent to which computers and other information technology devices have already entered into our daily lives.

The wave toward digital technologies, which first emerged in the 1970s, provided the main impetus toward the rapid development of information and communications technology. However, it was the rapid and widespread commercialization of the Internet during the late 1990s that made it possible for computers and other IT devices, which had formerly only been used on a stand-alone basis or in conjunction with local networks, to be integrated into an information network on a global scale. This has resulted in the worldwide changes in the structures of industries and societies that have come to be called the "IT revolution."

2. Effects of the IT Revolution

The IT revolution may very well hold the key to the future of the global economy and the international community. This is because IT has the potential to become the engine driving major socioeconomic change in the 21st century by stimulating competition, improving productivity, and creating employment opportunities and economic growth.

Moreover, the influence from the IT revolution is by no means limited to its socioeconomic effects, but extends over a wide range of fields including politics and culture. By providing new means for the transmission and conveyance of information, IT is expected to become a powerful force toward strengthening democracy, increasing the transparency and accountability of governments, and promoting human rights.

On the other hand, many have also noted the "dark side" of the IT revolution, such as serious concerns that a "digital divide" may exacerbate economic disparity. Other issues posed by the IT revolution include a heightened need to protect consumers and privacy, as well as the potential for cyberterrorism and other illegal activities over the Internet.

While it is naturally important for each country to address these issues domestically, considering the global nature of IT, it is also important to advance coordinated and cooperative approaches on an international basis.

3. IT and the G8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit

Given these developments, IT was recognized as an important issue at the G8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit held in July. Following the Summit deliberations, the G8 leaders adopted the Okinawa Charter on Global Information Society (Okinawa Charter), which expresses a political vision for the future of the information society.

Recognizing IT as "one of the most potent forces in shaping the twenty-first century," the Okinawa Charter calls for an information society "that better enables people to fulfill their potential and realize their aspirations," and states that "everyone, everywhere should be enabled to participate in and no one should be excluded from the benefits of the global information society."

Based on these principles, the Okinawa Charter outlines the future approach to a wide range of related policy issues such as consumer protection, crimes committed in cyberspace, and cooperation to foster an appropriate policy environment for the diffusion of IT. The Charter also emphasizes the importance of measures to bridge the international digital divide, and the crucial need for "effective collaboration among all stakeholders" to resolve this issue.

Following these achievements of the G8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit, the G8 members established the Digital Opportunity Task Force (DOT Force) to mobilize resources and coordinate efforts to address the global digital divide. The DOT Force will engage in dialogue with various interested parties, and report its findings and recommendations to the G8 before the July 2001 Genoa Summit. The participants at the DOT Force's first meeting, held in Tokyo in late November, included representatives from each of the G8 governments, and from businesses, non-profit organizations, developing countries, international organizations, and international business associations.

Additionally, prior to the G8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit, the government of Japan announced a Comprehensive Cooperation Package for bridging the digital divide, with a view to extending a total of approximately US$15 billion over five years. This Comprehensive Cooperation Package will be implemented to promote the use of IT focusing on the four main pillars of intellectual support, human resource development, IT infrastructure improvement, and increased use of IT in development assistance.

4. International IT Cooperation and Coordination

At the same time as Japan announced the Comprehensive Cooperation Package and compiled the Okinawa Charter (as the G8 Summit Chair), Japan was also proceeding with various examinations and launching a vigorous domestic IT promotion initiative, based on the recognition that the spread and development of IT was one of the country's most important policy issues.

In essence, there is a mutually complementary relationship between the spread of IT within Japan and building up a global information society. A proper understanding of this relationship and active efforts to create a virtuous cycle that ensures mutually reinforcing progress will be essential prerequisites before Japan can become an "advanced IT country."

In this regard, the active initiative that Japan is seizing in diverse international IT dialogues and activities has a great significance for Japan itself. In particular, Japan's IT cooperation and coordination activities in the Asian region will become increasingly important for Japan's relations with other Asian countries, as they help to deepen Japan's economic relations with these countries in an expanded context.

In particular, it will become increasingly important for Japan to develop IT cooperation and coordination activities notably with other Asian countries in the context of deepening and expanding overall economic relations with them. Considering these aspects, from the end of October the government of Japan began dispatching a series of IT policy dialogue missions, primarily to Southeast Asian countries, toward developing specific projects under the Comprehensive Cooperation Package.

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