Japan’s digital minister has vowed to remove laws requiring that data sent to the government is shipped on floppy disks and other physical media.
Digital minister Taro Kono on Tuesday vowed to dismiss Japan’s laws that have entrenched floppy disks and CD-ROMs in the nation’s systems. In a tweet from his English Twitter account, Kono said he was declaring “war” on floppy disks as part of its digital transformation and enabling citizens to submit data online.
Kono explained there were about 1,900 articles in Japan’s laws that require businesses to submit forms to the government on floppy disk. There are also 157 laws that require submissions specifically be sent on optical disks, magnetic disks, and magnetic tapes.
Because those laws don’t specify an online mechanism, it technically binds businesses and citizens to use technology that many consumers can’t even find at a store today: Sony stopped selling floppy disks in 2011.
“Digital Minister declares a war on floppy discs,” wrote Kono. “There are about 1900 government procedures that requires business community to use discs, i. e. floppy disc, CD, MD, etc to submit applications and other forms. Digital Agency is to change those regulations so you can use online.”
The country is embarking on a national ID smartcard scheme called My Number that citizens can use to electronically sign online tax submissions, apply online for other government services, and use for online banking logins and signing transactions.
The tech-savvy digital minister argued the case for the My Number and online transactions on his blog, detailing the difficulties municipalities faced in distributing emergency benefits to citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, citizens needed to attach a copy of their passport with bank account information in order to receive benefits, he notes.
Bloomberg reports that Kono, a potential contender to be prime minister, has been a critic of the nation’s inefficient bureaucracy, including the continued use of fax machines and the ‘hanko’ or red stamp used to sign official documents.
“I’m looking to get rid of the fax machine, and I still plan to do that,” he said at a press conference.
Japan isn’t the only government slow to move off floppy disk. The US Air Force only in 2019 replaced floppy disks for managing its nuclear arsenal with solid state drives.