Germany is well on the way to Industry 4.0, but Japan is taking it even a step further: The government’s “Society 5.0” program not only supports the economy, but above all focuses on the positive changes that increased digitization offers to and for the people of Japan.
The program is based on the realization that Japan lags behind other countries in some areas of digitization development. Plans comparable to the German Industry 4.0 project, the “e-Estonia” program in Estonia or “Smart Nation” in Singapore did not previously exist in Japan. And even business-funded projects such as the “Industrial Internet” , launched by General Electric in the US have been absent there. This is now changing.
Focus on people, not machines
For Japan, unlike other countries, is not limiting itself to areas such as industry or administration. The government is targeting nothing less than a new, super smart society, dubbed “Society 5.0”, that involves not just companies but also individuals and community life.
The program’s starting point is the definition of various challenges facing Japan in particular, such as the aging of the population, pollution and natural disasters. For each of these problem areas, Society 5.0 offers approaches to reduce or eliminate the threat. This will require, in the words of a position paper from Japan’s most important business federation Keidanren, a “breaking down of the five walls”. By this the organization means the five biggest barriers to the country’s development in the digital arena. For example, the “administration wall” is to be knocked down by formulating a shared strategy and defining state subsidies for innovative companies. The “legal system wall” can be attacked by having the judiciary take into consideration the new conditions of a digitized world. And a shared foundation of knowledge should bring down the technology wall.
A national vision to help Japan
Keidanren wants to tackle the problem of a shrinking workforce (“wall of human resources”) by including people from every social sphere and age group, through education initiatives and a culture of innovation. Closely tied to this is the fifth hurdle on the path to Society 5.0: social acceptance. A shared, national vision is intended to ensure that the interplay between people and machines gains greater status, and that moral, ethical and economic aspects of digitization are rooted in society as a whole.
To achieve these extremely challenging goals, the federation proposes various measures that are determined by the economy itself. These include a structural reform around working methods and conditions (such as support for mobile working, inclusion of management in training and workforce diversification).
Overall the initiative is meant to be nothing less than a transformation of the “information society” into the “super smart society”. This sounds like an exciting challenge, at the very least.
Partner Country Japan is presenting its vision of Society 5.0 together with its exhibiting companies at CeBIT.