Resident Registry Network Stumbles Out of Gate

Back to Contents of Issue: October 2002

Juki Net, or the national resident registry network, got off to an inauspicious start this summer as computer systems failed, local governments opted out and chat rooms on the Internet filled with conversations about the evils of giving everybody an 11-digit number. The government says the national registry system will make it easier to apply for social benefits, get passports and deal with other government services. But the public is not so sure. Some claim the government is up to no good, but most respond in the same way my friend did recently: "Juki Net? What's that?"

It's an 11-digit number that will allow the government (or whoever else can access the network) to find your name, address, date of birth, sex and other personal information. And if you are Japanese and you live in an area that is complying with the national policy on Juki Net, whether you realize it or not, you now have a number.

The national government has handled Juki Net about as aptly as it has handled the bad loan problem and the reviving of the lifeless economy. In other words, it has utterly failed to inspire even a modicum of faith among the populace that it will do the right thing. That's why people like Nobuo Hoshino, the mayor of Kokubunji city in western Tokyo, should be applauded. He showed up for work at 9am on August 5 and promptly pulled the plug on the computer terminal linked to the network. "I'm aware some residents may not applaud this decision, but I hope they'll cooperate until a law to protect personal information is established," the Yomiuri Shimbun quoted him as saying.

The government first needs to make sure personal information is protected. It also must allow people access to their own records. And it needs to show people that it has a system in place to stop fraud. It has done none of this. What it has done is make veiled threats to localities like Yokohama and Suginami Ward that have opted out of the system. Here's chief cabinet secretary Yasuo Fukuda quoted in the Japan Times when asked about local governments that refuse to use the Juki Net system: "It must be underlined that such a move violates related laws, and we will urge them to quickly join the network."

So while a few local government officials deserve applause for standing up to the central government's strong-arm approach on Juki Net, the Koizumi administration continues its arrogant, out-of-touch approach, led by perhaps the most out-of-touch of them all -- prime minister Junichiro Koizumi. Here's what the political heavyweight had to say on the subject of the many people with privacy concerns: "Look at me. I cannot even talk about (privacy). All of my personal information is exposed. I may be able to understand it if the (media reports) are correct, but there's just too much this and that."

Well, thanks for reassuring us, PM. I guess I'll go ask mayor Hoshino to plug the computer back in.

-- Bruce Rutledge
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