Digital Minister Moves To Kick Tech Out Of Government Practices

Tokyo: Japan’s digital minister, who promised to rid the bureaucracy of obsolete tools from the hanko stamp to the fax machine, has now declared war on a technology many haven’t seen in decades: the floppy disk.

The hand-sized, square-shaped data storage element, along with similar devices, including the CD or even a lesser-known minidisk, are still required for some government procedures from the 1900s and must go, Digital Minister Taro Kono wrote. in a Twitter post.

An advertisement for a floppy disk.

An advertisement for a floppy disk.

“We will review these practices quickly,” Kono told reporters, adding that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida had offered his full support. “Where do you buy a floppy these days?”

Japan is not the only nation that has struggled to phase out outdated technology. The US Department of Defense only announced in 2019 that it had stopped using floppy disks in a control system for its nuclear arsenal. Discs were first developed in the 1960s.

Sony stopped making the drives in 2011 and many young people would have a hard time describing how to use one or even identify one in the modern workplace.

Legal hurdles make it difficult to adopt modern technology like cloud storage for wider use within the bureaucracy, according to a presentation by the government’s digital task force.

The group will review the provisions and plans before announcing ways to improve them by the end of the year.

Kono, one of the most visible politicians in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party who is often cited by voters as a candidate for prime minister, has been an outspoken critic of bureaucratic inefficiencies due to archaic practices, particularly the fax machine and hanko. The latter is a unique carved red seal that is still required to sign official documents such as marriage licenses.

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