August 6, 2019
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) held discussions on future approaches to providing public services in light of the diversity in social needs and values and the changes in digital technologies as well as discussions on approaches that the government of Japan should take in changing its roles along with such provision of public services and it compiled discussion results into a report.
1. Background to the discussions
The government has been providing “public services” mainly in accordance with the designs of such services, which prioritize efficiency of provision to the people. Meanwhile, as Japan is facing an increasingly diverse set of people’s needs along with social challenges amidst the advancement of an aging society with fewer children and limited funding resources, it is becoming difficult for the government to address the opinions of citizens in a meticulous manner only by its efficient provision of public services.
Aiming to support society, bearing in mind the diversity of needs and values, METI held discussions on how and by whom the “public goods and services” should provide for and how the roles of the government will change. METI then compiled the results of these discussions into a report.
2. Key points of the discussions
Digital technologies have been changing people’s daily lives. They help people to know the real-time situations of business supply and demand, expand the scale of credible systems through users’ assessment, and vitalize a variety of transaction activities on a given platform. Amidst this trend, more and more people are finding values in spending a part of their time and money on activities that benefit someone or something for which they feel empathy, such as crowdfunding for charitable causes. Such transformation of the society may also change the relationships between citizens and public goods and services as well as the roles that the government should play.
3. A new definition of public sector and the government’s roles in the 21st century
Redesigning the current field of public services is necessary so that anyone is smoothly able to participate in such services anytime as providers or receivers of the services. In this process, the government’s roles will shift to those providing digital public goods or “platforms” to realize such services, e.g., digital IDs, electronic certification and data-sharing systems.
METI considers that realization of a “small but responsive government” as seen in the above cases may become a dynamo to achieve a new definition of public sector in the 21st century that will meet a variety of needs at small costs in parallel with taking advantage of social vitality. Based on this awareness, METI compiled the report.
Division in Charge
IT Project Office, Policy Planning and Coordination Division, Commerce and Information Policy Bureau