Japan’s Digital Minister Is Waging War on Floppy Disks

Japan’s digital minister, who’s vowed to rid the bureaucracy of outdated tools from the hanko stamp to the fax machine, has now declared “war” on a technology many haven’t seen for decades — the floppy disk.

A hand-sized and square-shaped storage device for data is still needed to perform approximately 1,900 government processes.

“We will be reviewing these practices swiftly,” Kono said in a press conference Tuesday, who added that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has offered his full support. “Where does one even buy a floppy disk these days?”

Japan isn’t the only nation that has struggled to phase out the outdated technology — the U.S. Defense Department only announced in 2019 that it has ended the use of floppy disks, which were first developed in the 1960s, in a control system for its nuclear arsenal. Sony Group Corp. stopped producing the disks in 2011. Many young people wouldn’t be able to identify the old technology or describe the use of one at work today.

Continue reading: E-waste has become a problem around the world

Legal hurdles are making it difficult to adopt modern technology like cloud storage for wider use within the bureaucracy, according to a presentation by the government’s digital taskforce dated Tuesday. They will be reviewing the current provisions, and they plan to suggest ways to improve them before the end of the year.

Kono, one of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s most visible politicians who’s often cited by voters as a contender to be prime minister, has been an outspoken critic of bureaucratic inefficiencies due to archaic practices, most notably the fax machine and the hanko, a unique, carved red stamp that remains necessary to sign off on official documents like a marriage license. Both were used when Kono was an administrative reform minister in 2020-2021.

“I’m looking to get rid of the fax machine, and I still plan to do that,” he quipped at his press conference Tuesday.

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