Japan has yet to get rid of floppy disks - The Post

Japan has yet to get rid of floppy disks – The Post

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Japan “has declared war on floppy disks», A type of support for digital memory storage used mainly in the late seventies and nineties, and still very widespread in the country’s bureaucracy despite the technological innovations of the following decades. In fact, in Japan there are almost two thousand administrative procedures that require the use of physical media such as those that in Italian we call “diskettes”, CDs or even less known mini-disks. As he has been trying to do for a while, the Minister of Digital Affairs Taro Kono has promised that these procedures will be moved online: it does not mean that doing it will be easy.

The floppy disk was invented by the information technology company IBM and released in 1972: it is about the size of the palm of a hand and it is very likely that most of the young people born in this century, and perhaps even a few years earlier , have never seen one. From the end of the nineties floppy disks fell into disuse due to the advent of increasingly sophisticated, capacious and compact media: first CDs, then keys and hard-disks and more recently the cloudthe external storage system that allows you to store and move data on different servers to make them available anytime and anywhere via the internet.

However, a commission appointed by the Japanese ministry has estimated that even today there are about 1,900 administrative services that plan to use media such as floppy disks to make various requests or to archive documents.

Kono said in a press conference on Tuesday that the ministry has pledged to review these procedures “quickly” and that the commission is looking into ways to move them online, with the full support of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Kono, who has long been fighting the inefficiency of bureaucracy due to its obsolete systems, also added: “But then where do you buy floppy disks today?”.

– Read also: The worst way to lose a USB stick

The Japanese government has been trying for years to do away with the old paper and tools required to manage official documents, promoting the digitization of public administration. Kono, one of Japan’s most prominent politicians, has long argued that the inefficiency of the Japanese bureaucratic system is linked to its outdated practices. Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Defense and Administrative Reforms, for example in 2020 he promised to eliminate the use of fax machines and hanko, the traditional personal seals that often replace the signature and are used to validate documents. Nonetheless, both faxes and seals continue to be used in public administration.

“I want to get rid of the fax and still plan to do so,” Kono said at the press conference. He also added that the ministry commission will have to assess whether there are laws that, as formulated, do not fit a digital society and, in this case, propose any changes that would be presented in an extraordinary session in parliament. Any kind of opposition from other ministries or entities “will be rejected,” Kono clarified.

Not everyone in Japan seems to agree with the “digital revolution” promised by the minister: some public officials argue that physical media such as floppy disks offer a guarantee of authenticity that an email cannot satisfy, while some politicians have disputed its will to eliminate the use of hanko, calling them a symbol of Japanese culture. According to a presentation by the task force cited by Japan Times it seems unlikely that modern technologies such as the cloud they can be adapted to the Japanese bureaucratic system for large-scale use in a short time; however, the commission is expected to announce possible development strategies by the end of the year.

– Read also: Canada is convincing itself to abandon faxes


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