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Home > Debates Last Updated: 14:30 03/09/2007
Debate: Y2K

Japan and The YEAR 2000 Problem

Panel Discussion
Center for Global Communications
November 18, 1998


Toshinari ISHII


The following information documents the second in a series of GLOCOM's English language debates and discussions on topics related to Japan. The title of the panel discussion was "Y2K and Japan." There were two central questions discussed:

Question: How serious is the Y2K problem in Japan?

Question: Is the current Japanese government Y2K action plan sufficient? If not, how can the plan be improved?

Discussion of the first question included recent figures from the Gartner Group Inc. forecasting Y2K-related mission-critical failure among 50% of Japanese companies, and the view of at least one study that Japan ranks third from worst in terms of Y2K preparation among Asian countries. There was general agreement among participants that the impact of Y2K on Japan will be significant.

Information about the level of Y2K preparedness of the Japanese government was presented. At the national level, 38% of ministries and agencies had completed Y2K preparations and were compliant, while the remaining 62% had Y2K conversion programs or other preparations underway. The situation in prefectures and local government is less promising. In prefectural government only 4% of systems are currently compliant, and 81% had conversion programs underway. In cities, towns and special wards, 14% of systems are currently compliant, 18% are being converted and 68% are untouched. It is clear that municipal services may be severely effected by Y2K.

Participants expressed concern over the paucity of information made available by both government or industry, and questioned the reliability of information that was available. For example, the government's Y2K Action plan called for all government ministries to prepare contingency plans by Dec. 31, 1998. Yet with just 40 days remaining none attending the meeting had heard news of any such plans being prepared.

Recurring themes in the discussion were "disclosure", "trust" and "educate".

To address the question of the competence of the Japanese government's Y2K action plan, adopted by the Japanese government September 11, 1998, participants commented on particular sections of the plan and pointed out a number of weaknesses. In response to these perceived holes in the plan, a list of recommendations for improvements were generated. These include the following:

  1. Clearer guidelines for government and industry-level reporting of Y2K compliance.
  2. Specific criteria for what counts as being "finished" or "compliant."
  3. Industry-level information clearinghouse to increase efficiency of reporting on simulations and remediation progress.
  4. Continuous reporting by government and industry of remediation progress, rather than quarterly.
  5. Detailed, phase-by-phase time schedule for remediation.
  6. Close international cooperation between government agencies and industries.
  7. Detailed disclosure by agencies and industry of progress and contingency plans.
  8. Public education programs at community level.
  9. Y2K-related simulation tests at community level.
  10. Contingency plans constructed and coordinated at community level.

Mr. Adachi made his comments in Japanese, an English translation (text) is now available.

Recommendations generated by a recent CAN Forum special seminar on Y2K, headed by GLOCOM's Professor Takahiro MIYAO, were also discussed:

ENGLISH SUMMARY (For full Japanese text, see
by CAN Forum (
Nov. 12, 1998

Encouraging information disclosure and sharing, and promoting public awareness, at the community level , by making use of various on-line and off-line activities of CAN Forum.

Conducting simulation tests to check the lifeline infrastructure in selected communities with the help of governments, businesses, academia, and residents on a CAN-style volunteer basis.

Developing contingency plans based on community cooperation and volunteer activity with local and regional coordination, possibly including the installation of an entirely new, Y2K-problem-free CAN (Community Area Network).

In addition, the suggestion was made to draft a carefully worded, one-page Japanese language information sheet for purposes of informing individuals or groups about Y2K. It was emphasized that such an information document should be balanced in tone, targeted at a general, non-technical audience, and perhaps should feature a simple diagram to help clarify the content.

Before concluding the session, it was agreed that a meeting of interested persons would be held soon to draft such an information document and to further discuss issues related to Y2K and Japan.

Documents distributed and discussed:

Mr. Susumu Adachi's Y2K Japan page

Japanese government's Y2K Action Plan, Advanced Information and Telecommunications Society Promotion Headquarters on September 11, 1998 (Prime Minister's Office)

How should public policy confront the Y2K emergency? Roland Cole, Adjunct Fellow, Discovery Institute.

The Year 2000: Social Chaos or Social Transformation? John L. Petersen, Margaret Wheatley, Myron Kellner-Rogers

Japan Y2K News:

Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nikkei) Japan's Y2K Agenda daily news and archive. (Subscription service, registration required.)

Copyright © Japanese Institute of Global Communications