As reported in the Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun, a leading trade and industry publication in Japan, an eighteen-member group representing some of the largest computer and Internet-based companies has called on the incoming government to urgently pursue the improvement of Internet use and electronic commerce.
Although originally a private group, this is the first time that the International Information Enterprise has publicly announced its intentions to seek improvements for the “information highway,” or “information society” as it is known in Japan.
Headed by the executive adviser for Compaq computers Japan, Mr. Masaru
Murai, and other members such as Mr. Chikara Sano of Japan Oracle, the group suggested three points for the incoming government:
- reducing the charges of phone fees across the board and introducing a flat rate
- offering partial tax refunds to anyone who has bought a personal computer or computer-related goods
- and exempting e-commerce for up to five years from having to pay the national consumer tax of 5%.
Reducing phone fees has taken precedence. Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) currently offers its customers “telehoudai,” or free local dialing times only between the hours of 11PM and 8AM, whereas during normal daytime hours there is no such system. Average phone use in the U.S. has been figured at 50 hours per week compared to less than 20 hours in Japan.
“Telehoudai should also be available during daytime hours as well. The rate of telephone fees should match the U.S. average of around $20.00,” said Mr. Sano.
“Personal computer education also needs to be improved,” said Mr. Murai of Compaq computers. “It is believed that only 5% of students have access to computers; schools with less than 3 computers total 60%. With a tax refund, many people, educators, and schools would find the means to improve their own computer classes or programs.”
Ordinary Internet users and businesses would also be exempt from having to pay the consumer tax under the plan, elevating the level of e-commerce and business investments online.
“E-commerce now totals around $670 million per year in Japan. With a five-year consumer tax exemption, we are hoping for two, three, five times the normal growth,” said Mr. Murai.
Unfortunately, due to the uncertain economic situation of Japan’s financial
sector, many banks are unwilling to make the necessary investments leaving the infrastructure investment of the “information highway” in doubt.
“In Japan it is very hard to make economic reforms. The importance of the
‘information highway’ is talked about but little is done. Now with the
globalization of the Internet there are many American companies entering
the Japanese economy and profiting. If nothing is done in Japan, it will be
a major mistake,” added Mr. Murai. “After the new government has been
established, we will ask for this plan to be considered.