Japan fails to adapt to digital revolution

Japan fails to adapt to digital revolution
Hitachi director, Dr Tsugio Makimoto says Japan lags behind the rest of the world in changing to a digital-based society; hierarchical, bureaucratic management to blame. David Manners in Tokyo Japan could take a decade to catch up with the US and Europe in the use of the Internet and the changes it has made to business and lifestyle. That is the view of Dr Tsugio Makimoto, a main board director of Hitachi and the company’s chief corporate technology officer. “Japan has huge problems to solve to change direction to a digital-based society. Japan is now lagging behind the direction in which the rest of the world is heading, especially in the digital revolution which has changed lifestyle,” said Makimoto. In May, Makimoto is leading a delegation of Japanese industrial and government leaders to visit high-tech centres in Europe and in the US to investigate how Japan can adapt to the new ways of living and doing business. “The way of management is changing because of e-mail and information flows which makes for flat organisations,” said Makimoto, “but most of the Japanese industries have hierarchical, bureaucratic styles of management and it’s very difficult to move them very quickly. So the digital revolution is making it very difficult for big companies in Japan. “In the US there are many start-up companies with good ideas using the digital revolution very effectively,” said Makimoto, “particularly the Internet – such companies can do worldwide marketing via the Internet. That is a big change in favour of small companies.” Makimoto said that change may take another ten years: “We have to start in the education system, in the university research system and in the organisation of big corporations in order to change the way of thinking of people.” One example of Japan’s problem is the low penetration of PCs into Japanese households. Whereas 43 per cent of US households have a PC, in Japan only 23 per cent have them. “This represents a time lag of about five years,” said Makimoto.


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