Japan minister declares ‘war’ on the humble floppy disk in new digital push

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Japan’s digital minister, who’s vowed to rid the bureaucracy of outdated tools from the hanko stamp to the fax machine, has now declared “war on a technology many haven’t seen for decades” -- the floppy disk.

The hand-sized, square-shaped data storage item, along with similar devices including the CD or even lesser-known mini disk, are still required for some 1,900 government procedures and must go, digital minister Taro Kono wrote in a Twitter post on Wednesday.

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“We will be reviewing these practices swiftly,” Kono said in a press conference on Tuesday, who added that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has offered his full support. “Where does one even buy a floppy disk these days?”

Japan isn’t the only nation that has struggled to phase out the outdated technology -- the US Defense Department only announced in 2019 that it has ended the use of floppy disks, which were first developed in the 1960s, in a control system for its nuclear arsenal. Sony Group Corp. stopped making the disks in 2011 and many young people would struggle to describe how to use one or even identify one in the modern workplace.

Legal hurdles are making it difficult to adopt modern technology like cloud storage for wider use within the bureaucracy, according to a presentation by the government’s digital taskforce dated Tuesday. The group will review the provisions and plans to announce ways to improve them by the year-end.

Kono, one of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s most visible politicians who’s often cited by voters as a contender to be prime minister, has been an outspoken critic of bureaucratic inefficiencies due to archaic practices, most notably the fax machine and the hanko, a unique, carved red stamp that remains necessary to sign off on official documents like a marriage license. He tried to curb use of both when he was administrative reform minister between 2020 and 2021, but the two are still widely used.

“I’m looking to get rid of the fax machine, and I still plan to do that,” he quipped at his press conference on Tuesday.

Read more: We’re hiring: Babies wanted for Japan nursing home to keep oldies company

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