Since the My Number system started in January 2016, NRI has supported both policy and system design aspects to further the spread of the system. The My Number system is not just a systematization of administration for efficiency, but is also a social foundation for Japanese citizens to enjoy highly convenient services as part of digital government. Yoji Minamigawa of the NRI MyNumber Business Department is convinced that “the digitalization of society starting from the My Number system will assuredly support the future of Japan,” and is earnestly working to bring about social change through business in cooperation with various public and private organizations.
“I want to create systems that support the world”
One day, I want to work on creating systems for the world. I have always felt that way since I was a student, so I joined NRI. I felt that this company was not only building computer systems, but also trying to change society for the future. In the latter half of the 90s, when I was a student, the keywords “privatization”, “e-government/e-Japan”, and “IT revolution” were everywhere in the midst of a long economic downturn. I felt that we could create a new era where it was possible to change society even from the private sector.
In the first 15 years after I joined NRI, I supported the planning and promotion of IT strategies, starting with building systems for securities companies. Although I am a systems engineer, I not only was involved in systems design, but also worked with the Financial Services Agency and industry groups on framework design and handled product and business development for financial companies as well. My seniors taught me that our job is to create frameworks that will support the securities market in the future. The experience of creating the very frameworks for revitalizing the Japanese economy with the involvement of market participants, and above all, the spirit of my seniors at that time, serve as the foundation of my current work.
The turning point was in 2015, when the MyNumber Business Department was established, and I changed positions as a founding member there. At that time, there was still poor public understanding of the My Number system, and there were deep-rooted criticisms about the risk of information leaks and misuse, so we needed to carefully consider and address the weaknesses and troubles of the system. Amid such circumstances, NRI, as an organization supporting the securities industry, where number management is mandatory, designed a concrete management method for system operations in the private sector and the administrative work and systems to support it, and worked towards the realization of the system. When the system started in January 2016, more than 170 financial institutions using our system successfully launched services compatible with the system all at once. With the launch of the My Number system, having been able to introduce this monumental system into society meant that we, despite being a private service, had a considerable impact on policy. From this experience, I learned that in order for laws and policies to permeate society, realization and dissemination in the private sector are key, and I became aware of the importance of corporate activities that support these things.
Popularization of the My Number system promoting digitalization in the private sector
Currently, there are two major jobs I am working on in the MyNumber Business Department. One is to thoroughly standardize and digitize operations relating to the My Number system and provide them to the public in the form of services and tools. One of them, “e-BANGO”, is already the largest My Number management service used in Japan. It is packed with know-how that goes beyond simple data management to minimize the impact on existing services, businesses, and systems of corporate users. In order to popularize the system, we devised a way so that private companies that introduce the service will also benefit, and this was essential.
Further, there is a public personal authentication service “e-NINSHO” that performs identity verification online. For example, for a new employee to obtain a health insurance card, it takes time and money for the procedures of preparing documents for identity verification and sending them by mail. The procedures are simplified by having them quickly scan their My Number card. Being able to issue a health insurance card that dependents also use at an early stage is a new value created by the realization of the My Number system. In the future, it will support the diversification of employment forms, so there are expectations for its widespread use beyond the framework of the system.
In addition, as digitalization progresses further going forward, identity verification in the electronic space will gain in importance. In order to grow into a new social credit base, it is necessary for the My Number Card, which is the key, to be popularized and this official personal identification to permeate civic life. NRI is also gradually providing services for communication tools and the like that many people use every day.
Another is the utilization of Mynaportal operated by the government, which launched in January 2017. We are polishing up convenience so that the private sector can make better use of it. For example, the National Tax Agency will start full-scale digitalization of tax returns in October 2020, which is the fruit of our efforts with many financial institutions to further utilize Mynaportal.
As digital government policy progresses, to advance this to the digitalization of society, it is essential to expand private services that the people can understand, perceive as convenient, and use with peace of mind. Meanwhile, if private companies do not benefit, they cannot provide independent and sustainable services to society. The main benefit of this is cost reductions through digitalization. With the thorough digitalization of the forms of service provision, in-house administrative work, and cooperation with related parties, the usability of the system and the operational familiarity of the people, the users, will be incorporated as benefits. I believe that changing the conventional cost structure and providing value-added services on top of that is one step toward the digitalization of society.
In utilizing Mynaportal, through the “e-PO Box” service, we provide corporate users with functions and tools that realize not only data linkage but also digitalization from customer service to operations. We have corporate users thoroughly understand costs and benefits, and on top of that, we are building a system to provide independent and sustainable digital services to the people.
The role of bridging the public and private sectors
Both the My Number system and Mynaportal are systems that were originally created by the government. However, it is not possible for the government alone to achieve broad use of these systems in society and realize a digital society. This is because even if the government procures and puts an IT system into operation, the system will not immediately permeate society. There needs to be a role for carefully relaying policies to the private sector and undertaking the work of realizing them, and I think that is the role of NRI. Having for many years provided many IT infrastructure projects as shared services, starting with the financial industry, NRI can provide services that understand the social utility and public interest responsibilities involved in independent and continuous services in the private sector.
In addition to creating services, we are collaborating with the many companies that use them and taking on a social role that transcends industries; this is the spirit that has been passed down, I think. It can be said that the current NRI is indispensable for the popularization of the My Number system.
Since it is related to national policy, we are working in cooperation with various people in both the public and private sectors. These include, for example, people at the Cabinet Secretariat, the Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the National Tax Agency, local governments, related organizations, and private companies. Although their affiliations and positions are different, everyone is earnestly working to create a digital society through the permeation of the My Number system.
Meanwhile, we often receive unexpected external backlash and criticism for our efforts. Also, for NRI, projects relating to My Number do not necessarily lead to profits. Some people in the company say, “There’s just a lot of work.” It is difficult, and meaningful, to get things done when there are diverse opinions. This may be obvious for people in government offices, but being able to feed on the joys and sorrows in this field as someone in a private company is a role I always wanted to play, and I am just excited to do my job every day. The government side that thinks about policy is struggling to involve the private sector and popularize it, but I think that is exactly where I can contribute.
Basically, my work creed is “Gather round!” I declare “I’ll do this work!” and work with the determination and responsibility to willingly put my professional life on the line should I fail. I go and declare it to the people around me. If you do this, your likeminded colleagues will surely gather around you. I want to utilize the My Number system to improve the future of Japanese society. To that end, I really want to coordinate with national policies and promote public-private initiatives. If you show that determination, people who say, “I’ll do it too!” will always emerge from inside and outside the company to lend a hand. I am convinced that this will increase the influence of the activities we set our eyes on.
Triggered by Covid-19, the indomitable My Number system will enter a stage of powerful progress. It shows the strong will of the government to declare and work on the digitalization of society. I believe that it is important for digitalization to slowly permeate people’s lives, which is a role I think will be served mostly by private services. Focusing on the realization of a digital society in the medium to long term without becoming impatient or anxious, to achieve and popularize independent and sustainable digital services through public-private partnerships; I am convinced that this will definitely benefit Japan in the future.
I think that NRI is a company with DNA that drives things that way. NRI’s pioneers have also gathered supporters since its founding and have continued to make efforts to change society. NRI will continue to focus on the popularization of the My Number system and the realization of digital government and digital society. I too wish to exert my abilities towards those ends.
Director, MyNumber Business Department
- After handling system development for financial institutions, he engaged in planning and promotion of IT strategy, IT capital policy, etc., before he launched the My Number project and developed one of the largest shared services in Japan in this area.
After that, as official identity verification and digitalization services were commercialized, he led the private sector efforts in promoting the system.
As a leader in the utilization of the My Number system in the private sector, he has also been invited to government agency review meetings and made policy recommendations.