Japan: Big Data For A Bigger Economy
British Embassy Tokyo
Japan’s Growth Strategy includes ambitious plans to build on strengths in infrastructure and devices to tap into the market for big data services and become a world leader in IT. Top Japanese ICT service providers have announced dedicated Big Data divisions. A boost in national capability will be needed to overcome the shortage of data scientists. Can Japan stimulate the development of creative data applications and innovative new businesses? Privacy of individual personal data will be a key challenge. Opportunities for the UK, which we are helping to develop.
Japan has a world class ICT infrastructure, supporting a highly connected society at home and commercial success overseas. Fujitsu, Hitachi, NTT Data and NEC are among the world’s top ICT service providers. High speed broadband is readily available in Japanese cities (>1Gbps in Tokyo), some 80% of the population use the internet and smart phone usage is among the highest in the world and growing rapidly.
Japan’s Growth Strategy in June aimed to reinforce Japan’s position as "a world-leading IT nation." The government predicts the market for “Big Data” services will be £51 billion (7.7 trillion yen) by 2020. It has allocated £87.5 million (13.2 billion Yen) for Big Data R&D, including projects to develop a 400Gbps new hi-speed network infrastructure and Test-bed, a high-availability and high-efficiency data centre operating system, and data analysis applications. Renewed technology infrastructure should boost Japan’s industrial competitiveness and create new industries and innovation.
The government also aims to revitalize the Japanese economy by promoting the use of public data stored in administrative agencies. This is currently very limited in scope but the UK G8 Presidency’s work on open data has been useful in developing the government’s approach. Traditional Japanese companies are often cautious about using the data they gather as they do not wish to jeopardise business reputation if they are seen to misuse data. Strict rules on personal information protection make it hard for companies to get access to data they haven’t gathered themselves.
The government is now looking at reform: a METI Working Group has identified the need for a code on personal data and is looking at consumer protection models in other countries.
The shortage of skilled professionals is a challenge for expanding new Big Data related business in Japan. Some 250,000 professionals are predicted to be needed in Japan in the future, compared with 1,000 data scientists at present. ICT industries and institutions are collaborating on programmes to help professionals develop expertise in data analysis, ICT knowledge and business consulting skills.
Japan’s top ICT service providers are actively developing Big Data services, from data storage and processing infrastructure, to a wide range of data analysis applications:
Fujitsu (Japan’s top ICT service provider) established the Big Data Initiative Centre in June to support their customers in this field. It is now seeking partners who have cutting edge technology in Big Data.
Hitachi aims to increase its revenues from big data related businesses to 150 billion yen (approximately £10 M) by fiscal 2015. Launched in June 2013, the Hitachi Global Centre for Innovative Analytics (HGC-IA) provides solutions that leverage the power of big data. The HGC-IA will coordinate and integrate activities with Hitachi’s Big Data Research Laboratories in the US and UK and other related research organizations.
There are strong opportunities for the UK. The renewed focus on big data here matches HMG priorities. Japan’s ICT service providers are seeking to build new partnerships in areas where UK companies have strong expertise. Perceptions are positive: the UK is seen as having the most advanced R&D in Big Data in Europe. The strong UK government drive on Open Data, including standardised, easy to access datasets, has helped SMEs as well as large companies to enter into Big Data analysis markets and move to quick commercialisation.
We are organising a programme of UK-Japan visits and events in November to highlight UK expertise and explore potential collaboration in research and development and investment opportunities for Japanese firms. UKTI colleagues are engaging with UK and Japanese companies.
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