GLOCOM Platform
Debates Media Reviews Tech Reviews Special Topics Books & Journals
Summary Page
Search with Google
Home > Debates Last Updated: 14:30 03/09/2007
Debate: Local Revitalization

Local Revitalization in the Global Age

Panel Discussion
Center for Global Communications
September 22, 1999


Toshinari ISHII, Nortel Networks
Yoichi HOMMA, IKOMA/CB Richard Ellis
Takahiro MIYAO, GLOCOMModerator:



The prospects for revitalization of local communities in the global age of information technology was discussed. There were three central questions:

  1. Can local communities maintain their identities and integrity in the wake of trends toward globalization? Can you think of any examples from the U.S. and Japan to support your position?
  2. Are there any strategies that might serve to revitalize local communities effectively in this global age? Can "community information networking" be as effective as some local activists claim?
  3. What are the prospects for the revitalization of local communities in Japan? Are you optimistic or pessimistic?

Summary of the Discussion

DOLAN: Let's begin by defining "globalization" and "localization." These terms can be used in various ways, but one sense of globalization is the increasing integration of economic systems, cultural values, financial schemes, and business schemes, across national boundaries. "Localization" is a push in the opposite direction, for local autonomy and control. Such autonomy can be geographically regional or regional in some other way, but the idea is moving control from the national to the local level. We will discuss these competing forces, and also talk about the ways in which globalization and localization might run on parallel tracks. Let's begin our discussion of the first question with Mr. Ishii. Can local communities maintain their identities and integrity in the wake of trends toward globalization?

ISHII: Globalization and localization should be considered two separate streams, rather than in some hierarchy. Regarding the ability of local communities to maintain their identities in the face of globalization, I think yes. Communication networks are happening everywhere, both on a large and small scale.

MASUZOE: One concrete example of a town that is maintaining its identity in this age of globalization is a town in Japan that has established its own system of insurance for the elderly. The town of Takano took many good ideas for insurance systems from European countries, but the key elements of the plan are unique to Takano.

DOLAN: What is the role of the national government in Takano's insurance system? Is the government interfering or supporting the plan?

MASUZOE: In general, the smaller the town, the more subsidies that can be received from the national government. There has been no specific interference from the national government, aside from stipulations tied to the subsidies.

HOMMA: I would like to narrow the discussion to see local communities as cities. In Japan, leadership at the local level is lacking. Therefore, local identity is very hard to establish.

MIYAO: I believe that local communities can maintain their identities in the wake of globalization trends, but it will be very difficult. An essay in the New York Times at the beginning of last years suggests that global interest groups are dominating local interest groups. Namelessness and placenessless prevail, which is characteristic of a fragmented society. So in this situation there is no use trying to establish localization. There is a war between real versus virtual, regional versus global, and individual versus technical standard. Also, initial conditions of local communities are very important when considering the kinds of people drawn to the area and the existing resources for building local identity.

DOLAN: Let's move to the second question: Are there any strategies that might serve to revitalize local communities effectively in this global age? Can "community information networking" be as effective as some local activists claim? Again, starting with Mr. Ishii.

ISHII: I think that to standardize everything is not a good way, because differences are important. For example, the concept of the United States means that each state is free to make its own regulations or rules. Japan needs to allow more differences without integrating everybody into the same standard.

MASUZOE: I'm not sure if I am optimistic or pessimistic any more, because the revitalization of local communities depends on a number of factors. One is the size of the local community. In Japan, for example, there are too many municipalities. Another factor is basic infrastructure, particularly transportation and telecommunications. Shinkansen [bullet train] terminals also make a big difference in the vitality of local communities.

DOLAN: Professor Masuzoe talked about highways as a physical infrastructure element important for the revitalization of local communities. New information technologies such as the Internet can also provide important infrastructure for local communities, so if any of the panelists would like to discuss this aspect I encourage you to do so. Mr. Homma.

HOMMA: The Internet can impact both economic and cultural growth of local communities. I have lived in both Dallas, Texas and San Francisco, and the cultures in both cities were quite different. In contrast, Japan is quite homogeneous, and I think that the Internet will only magnify this homogeneity.

MIYAO: Since I am taking the pessimistic view, let me address transportation. Certainly in the past, transportation has been considered a crucial element in revitalizing local communities. But now we recognize limits to such investment. Information technology is probably the only possible hope, regardless of location of community. But it is not clear that information technology is always the best answer, and the verdict is still out regarding effectiveness.

DOLAN: If each panelist would now briefly comment on whether or not you are optimistic or pessimistic about the prospects for the revitalization of local communities in Japan. Mr. Ishii.

ISHII: I am very optimistic, particularly because the technology is available.

MASUZOE: I can be optimistic if we realize the full reforms in government that I discussed earlier, the relationship between central and local governments.

MIYAO: I am rather pessimistic about Japan, because to be "glocal" we need a whole system of effective, interacting components in addition to information technology, and I think that Japan has a long, long way to go.

HOMMA: Because both Mr. Ishii and Mr. Masuzoe are optimistic, I will join the pessimistic side.

DOLAN: Today's topic will be a good candidate for further discussion some other time, particularly as technologies evolve. Thank you panelists.

Copyright © Japanese Institute of Global Communications