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Does a developed country like Japan use technology to address various social issues more effectively when compared to a developing country?
Curious about the role technology plays in addressing social issues in developed countries, we approached Chiaki Ishikawa, a resident of Tokyo, Japan. Ishikawa is a senior researcher with the YRL Ubiquitous Networking Laboratory (UNL), University of Tokyo, and visited India in February this year, when he spoke at the Open Source India Week in Bangalore. This is what he said:
- The use of new technology streamlines paperwork, etc. However, one demerit, which is often cited even in the other areas discussed later, is the ease of accumulating a large amount of personal data in a small device such as a USB memory stick. The chance of such a device being stolen or lost is a real problem. Not a single month goes by in Japan without some teachers (or clerical personnel at various institutions) reporting stolen or lost devices. The problem can perhaps be mitigated by properly encrypting such data.
- At the higher education level, some universities such as the Kyoto University in Japan have begun offering course material publicly. In the case of Kyoto University, you can see videos of the lectures on YouTube.
- However, at the higher education level, technology has also resulted in many students now simply copying pre-written work as part of their hand-in reports, etc. This is getting to be a real problem.
Low-cost access to ICT, especially in rural areas, fields, across mountains, etc.
- Japan, being a relatively small island country, doesn't offer much guidance here. By now, most of Japan is covered by land-based telephone lines, etc. This was so even before the advent of mobile phones.
- As a matter of fact, I think Indonesia and other countries that have begun using satellite/wireless telephone systems may have a better chance of covering their area.
- Offering high-speed Internet services in rural areas is a problem in Japan too. Using telephone lines, you can obtain a minimum coverage using the Point-to-Point Protocol. The next step is the 64 Kbps ISDN service. The next is the ADSL service. The popular fast optical fibre service is available in large cities and urban areas, but it is far from being nationwide. There are areas close to large cities that do not have optical services due to various reasons.
- At UNL, we have begun using RFID and other tag technologies to offer direction assistance to the elderly and to the handicapped. This is part of the Free Mobility Assistance Project. It is basically a location-based information service that can cater to many applications.
- Nationwide, many hospitals and doctors try to find a way to offer remote diagnostics to patients in areas where specialised doctors are hard to find.