The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Last month, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) launched the New Digital Agenda Task Force. Why should you care? Because, despite the name, this task force is about a lot more than digital technology. In fact, there isn’t a single ACCJ member whose business and lifestyle won’t be impacted by the themes and ideas this group is tasked with exploring.

We already have the Digital Economy Committee, which has subcommittees for cybersecurity, digital trade, and digital transformation for non-technology industries. But with this new task force, we’re creating a focal point to explore the digi­tal opportunity that addresses the interests of all our more than 70 committees. Let me explain.

BREAKING BARRIERS
Japan has been somewhat of an anomaly among economies of similar size and maturity. Traditional business practices—exemplified by the iconic hanko (personal seal) and the persistent use of fax machines—have created an artificial bar­rier to market entry, workstyle reform, and process efficiency.

But the coronavirus crisis—while it hasn’t necessarily changed all that overnight—has at least caused govern­ment officials, business leaders, and employees in Japan to question the status quo.

Employees, in particular, seem willing and able to adapt to teleworking, much to the surprise of veterans accustomed to Japan’s traditional close-supervision management style. Indeed, many companies are struggling to find ways to induce staff back to the office. In a few short months, they have shifted from human resources programs designed to reduce overtime and late hours to wondering whether employees will ever return to their desk—and, if so, why?

When you realize you can do your job without a lengthy commute or, as the dry-cleaning industry is realizing to their dismay, without the need for office attire, why would you?

That’s just one (albeit large) example of how digital tech­nologies can quickly reshape the business environment and impact things far beyond what the technology itself does.

WIDER REACH
As we’re all too aware, technology can reshape entire industries. It lowers barriers to entry, allows new market entrants to com­pete against the giants, and allows the giants to become more efficient. It can create new markets and new opportunities almost overnight. And, most importantly, it can improve the health and wellbeing of entire populations.

It is this holistic view of technology—its far-reaching impli­cations and opportunities—that is driving the ACCJ’s New Digital Agenda Task Force. An aggressive embrace of techno­logy offers a viable path towards much-needed economic growth for Japan. As a business community, this is among our top priorities.

As Japan moves to make digital a key driver of its eco­nomic engine, it’s vital for our community to understand and influence this transition. The work of the task force will help shape our advocacy strategy, set priorities, and allow us to offer viable solu­tions blending global best practices with insights into Japan.

The ACCJ has a long track record of successfully advocating on behalf of its members to improve the business environment in Japan. Some of those efforts are industry-specific, such as when we lobby to influence pharmaceutical regulations or tele­communications policies. Others, such as our recent statements on re-entry restrictions and economic stimulus programs, apply to a broad spectrum of our membership.

PARTICIPATE
The New Digital Agenda Task Force is equally relevant to all members, regardless of company size, industry, or nationality. While white papers on digital transformation and the digital economy are plentiful, this is a unique opportunity to see the subject in a more holistic way and through the lens of the global business community operating in Japan. For those reasons, I’d encourage you to participate and keep informed as the task force progresses.

For more information on The New Digital Agenda Task Force, visit: www.accj.or.jp/nda

Peter Fitzgerald is
ACCJ President.
We’re creating a focal point to explore the digital opportunity that addresses the interests of all our more than 70 committees.