JIN-190 -- Mitaka to Create Wireless LAN Hotspots for School Kids

J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R
Commentary on the Week's Business and Technology News

Issue No. 190
Wednesday, July 24, 2002


++ Viewpoint: Mitaka to Create Wireless LAN Hotspots for School Kids
++ Noteworthy News
- Back Home: Sony To Move Camcorder Production from China to Japan
- JAL To Offer Inflight Internet Service
- Exports Spark Rare Trade Surplus Growth

++ Viewpoint: Mitaka to Create Wireless LAN Hotspots for School Kids

Japan may be behind its international counterparts as far as
digital education is concerned, but Mitaka City in western Tokyo is
catching up quickly. The city says it will create wireless LAN
hotspots for its children so they can access school intranets from
outside the confines of the school.

What the city calls its Laptop School project will end with about
125 wireless LAN hotspots in an 800 square meter district this fall
and will distribute one PC per student. Unfortunately, the project is
still experimental so it will only cover one primary school and one
middle school (a total of 600 students), but the city says this is
the first such try at creating hotspots among Japanese local

The project will use wireless IEEE-802.11g technology, which allows
for up to 30Mbps connection speeds and which should be licensed for
the 2.4GHz portion of the radio spectrum by this fall.

Hotspots are becoming popular across the country, but Katsumi Oshima,
a teacher consultant at Mitaka's city board of education, notes that
"even McDonald's hotspots are based on 11b," which is a step
behind 11g.

So how can children make use of this latest technology? Mitaka is
already doing some experimental e-school projects, such as sending
video clips of kids swimming in a pool to be viewed at home. The
system will also let kids make and receive video clips from field
trips. The city is also preparing educational drills on the intranet
so a student can solve problems on his or her terminal and teachers
can monitor the student's progress, see how long it takes the student
to solve one problem and monitor how long the student stayed online.

Mitaka's hotspots will initially be for educational purposes only,
but the city is considering expanding usage to residents some time in
the future. Mitaka's initiative is part of the central government's
e!school project.

Mitaka plans to launch various other e-government projects ranging
from e-medical systems to e-payment of public utility bills. A city
official estimates the total cost of launching the educational project
itself will be somewhere between 600-700 million yen.

Some critics argue that the newest technologies may go wasted unless
the city provides enough human resources to ensure that users know
how to use them. But mayor Yasujiro Yasuda says, "this is an
unconventional area we are going into. We are fully aware that these
are fairly complicated projects for anybody to understand. But I
believe this is intriguing and will benefit Japan in the long run."

-- Sumie Kawakami

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** Back Home: Sony To Move Camcorder Production from China to Japan

One of Japan's highest-profile manufacturers is coming back home. The
Financial Times reported that Sony is shifting production of
camcorders destined for the US market from China to Japan. The report
notes that this is an unusual move, reversing the hollowing out trend
in Japanese manufacturing as more and more firms moving their
production sites to China.

According to the report, Sony says it will transfer production of
camcorders exported to the US from its joint venture plant in Shanghai
to Japan in order to improve its supply chain management system.
Sony's move is an encouraging sign that it still pays to
manufacture particularly high-value-added products in Japan. The
company manufactures most of its camcorders in Japan, the report says.

Sony considers it much more efficient to manufacture US-bound
camcorders in Japan, where most of the key devices that go into
camcorders are produced, the report says.

"Sony reverses trend of manufacturing in China," Financial
Times (July 23, 2002)

"Limping Toward China," March 2002 issue of J@pan Inc

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** JAL To Offer Inflight Internet Service

Japan Airlines will add Boeing's new high-speed Internet connection to
10 of its planes, the companies announced Monday. The service called
Connexion by Boeing relies on satellites and ground-based links to
provide in-air Internet connections and broadcast feeds from
television networks. According to ZdNet, the company will start the
service by the end of 2004.

ZdNet says that the service will allow passengers to view headline
news, weather reports and contents that are either sent to and stored
on the company's inflight servers or on their own PCs and PDAs.
Passengers will also be able to retrieve and send e-mail messages.
Some of these services will be charged for, the report says.

According to the Associated Press, JAL will be the third airline to
introduce the service. British Airways and German airline Lufthansa
plan to roll out the service in test programs early next year.

Associated Press (July 22, 2002)

ZdNet in Japanese (July 23, 2002)

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** Exports Spark Rare Trade Surplus Growth

Extract: Recent statistics released by the Japanese Finance Ministry
show an export increase of 1.6 percent and an import decrease of 6.5
percent in the first half of this year -- the first Japanese trade
surplus increase in 3 1/2 years.
The trade surplus in the January-June period jumped 56.8 percent to
4.98 trillion yen from the corresponding period of last year. The
steep growth in the trade surplus is attributable to a sharp increase
in exports, particularly those to Asian countries and a sharp decrease
in imports such as those of petroleum products because of the sluggish
domestic demand.

Source: Mainichi Shimbun (July 24, 2002)

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Written and edited by J@pan Inc staff (editors@japaninc.com)


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