Present and Potential use of the media spaces facilitated by digital communication technologies in Japan

Management guru Peter Drucker had commented that “the future was always already happening somewhere; it was just a question of spotting it”. Most people across the globe are aware of the technological breakthroughs and advances that the developed countries have made in the fields of science and technology. Asian countries take a backstage in development in such related areas. With the advent of globalization and liberalization of economies in Asia the flow of science and technology has rapidly swept the landscape of most of these countries that has led to huge pools of talent in the Information Technology and Mobile Telecommunications sector.

Japan has been labeled as one of the most technologically innovative nations second to the United States. The country has witnessed significant growth in technology across various industrial segments ranging from automobiles to video games consoles. The Internet has assumed great significance in improved accessibility and communication. It has revealed a whole new dimension to sharing and disseminating information across the globe with vast potentials to reap commercial and social benefits.

The Internet has changed the way people perceive markets and commerce today in addition to the highly efficient networking benefits that it offers. Its global reach, high degree of interactivity, speed of information exchange, and the ability to connect people from various parts of the globe has rendered the Internet medium indispensable for most businesses and homes today. The World Wide Web is yet unexplored in terms of its potentials in conducting online business, technologies that can further enhance its interactivity features, and networking benefits that can be expanded in future.

The components like e-mail, websites, social networking communities online, blogs, video conferencing, and net telephony have enabled efficient interaction between individuals from across the globe. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) has created new enhanced mode of communication possible in the 21st century. This trend has heralded a series of innovations in the field of communication technologies enabling enhanced connectivity and platform for smoother interaction between individuals.

An important aspect of technological development that has revolutionized the digital communication era is the mobile telephony. Widespread use of cellular technology to communicate freely from any place anytime has expanded the reach within individuals and the rapid penetration of this technology to both developed and underdeveloped economies has created tremendous opportunities for business growth. Growth and penetration of Internet in Japan

The Japanese economic growth is impressive in the Asian subcontinent constituting a major chunk of the high net worth individuals and progressive economic indicators. The country has a Gross National Income per capita of US$ 38,980 in the year 2006, as estimated by the World Bank. This has led to increasing number of people having the capacity to purchase latest gadgets and technological devices. The economy has witnessed rapid increase in the use of Internet and mobile technologies over the past few years.

According World Internet Statistics, the percentage of population accessing Internet in Japan has risen from a mere 37. 1 percent in the year 2000 to 68 percent in the year 2007 with the total number of users increasing from 47,080,000 to 87,540,000. The broadband speed in Japan is eight to thirty times faster than the connectivity available in United States, as per Washington Post dated 29th August 2007. The article reports that the accessibility cost is much lower compared to prices in the US.

Hence, “Japan has the world’s fastest Internet connection delivering more data at a lower cost than anywhere else. ” (Washington Post) In light of these statistics it is evident that the Japanese

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economy is gaining rapid momentum in fields of technological development armed with a techno-savvy population that is willing to explore the new aspects of business commerce and instant communication trends. The growth and development in the fields of Information and Communication Technologies is directly correlated to a country’s economic growth and development.

This sector has contributed significantly to the growth of the Japanese economy. The ICT sector contributed 0. 9 percent to the 2. 2 percent growth in GDP in the year 2005. The impact of the development in communication technologies is evident with the rise of electronic commerce and extensive use of the Internet for the purpose of business transactions. This has increased consumerism and sales of digital devices that are must haves for most individuals across the globe. Japan too is witnessing widespread consumerism for electronic devices and telecommunication services.

The high-speed connection at low cost provided by the telecommunication service providers in this country has allowed efficient exchange of data and information online besides enabling high-definition teleconferencing and video chats. The number of people working from home is increasing owing to this efficient service. The government of Japan has facilitated rapid growth in this sector realizing the vital contribution that this will have on the overall economic growth and development. The role of digital communication technologies in globalization is vital.

It is the rapid and efficient use of these technologies that has minimized the physical barriers and created a platform for smoother business transactions and information exchange across various corners of the globe without the hassle of traveling. The physical distance no longer poses a barrier to communities and businesses alike and the remarkable feature is the amount of time that is saved in communicating and transferring information from one corner of the globe to another. Japan has harnessed this sector to expand its economy and other related sectors that has benefited immensely from this sector.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Japan states in its ICT report 2007 “The current state of global business development by the world’s major telecommunications carriers reveals that they are actively promoting global expansion by establishing local subsidiaries and through investment in local telecommunications carriers. ” Telecommunication service providers are strongly vying against each other for increasing their market share since large number of individuals and businesses are opting for high-speed broadband connectivity and telephony services.

The demand has been growing over the past few years and many international service providers are entering the market to capitalize on this market segment. Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp (NTT) is a government controlled enterprise and currently is the largest telecommunication service provider in the country. But this company is facing severe competition from the entry of other multinationals. NTT launched the optical fiber system to provide connectivity at 100 megabits per second that is 17 times faster than the US cable connections.

The Washington Post article states that approximately 8. 8 million homes in Japan have access to Internet using this optical fiber system. This has revolutionized many aspects of life in Japan. For instance, the high-resolution video conferencing has enabled pathologists to examine tissue samples from patients living in remote areas with the help of remote controlled microscopes. The high-quality image made possible with the use of optical fiber system has rendered huge benefits to people residing in areas that do not have easy access to large hospitals.

The globalization and development in communication technologies have led to the growth of virtual organizations that are visible in the forms of virtual linkages with supply chain partners, outsourcing, virtual malls, or electronic market places and telework. The rise of virtual organizations was greatly facilitated by the innovative applications and developments in the field of Internet commerce. The e-commerce initially referred to exchange of stored data and information between related companies.

Developments in scope of applications have enabled the suppliers and service providers to directly communicate with their customers online and this has created a whole new concept of business management. Businesses across the globe realize the huge potential that the e-commerce implies and are adopting new strategies to take advantage of the extensive consumer reach through the Internet. Digitization in Japan The rapid penetration of Information Technology and increased networking abilities in the country created the need for digitization of the various departments and institutions both in the public and private sector.

Japan has carried out extensive digitization work in the last few years owing to the rapid penetration of Information Technology in all fields and industries. The United Nations report on digitization of the government department in Japan observes “the digitization of the administration is designed to make it more convenient for the people, simplify the administration and improve its efficiency and transparency, through the use of IT in every field of the administration and a review of existing systems and practices.”

The various government departments have been streamlined using the new technology and telecommunication networking to achieve an effective coordination and information flow across departments. The need to regulate and monitor the flow of data and information becomes highly critical in all businesses. The government of Japan undertook special care to promote digitization across all public institutions as well as private sector to enable efficient management of the systems and promote improved quality of services to the nation. Cellular phone technology in Japan

Mobile phones have become an essential part of today’s life and it is difficult to imagine moving around without one of these gadgets in the pocket. This device is a new addition to the digital communication modes and has revolutionized the pace and ease of connectivity between individuals. Few years’ back the pagers had been launched and the instant messaging device had created a huge impact on means of communication. The portable device had been first launched in the year 1968 in Japan and was mainly used by sales representatives and doctors to send instant messages and communicate any kind of emergency requirements.

The limitation of this device was that it could not be used to receive or make calls and could be used for receiving messages only. The car phone introduced by Japan in the year 1979 was the first of its kind in mobile telephones. This technology was gradually upgraded to take shape of the mobile phones used today. The current form of mobile phone service started in the year 1987 in Japan. The high fees levied on the use of theses mobile phones rendered them exclusively for the use of business purpose. Initially they were too expensive for use by the general public.

Within few years of its launch the mobile phone services became cheaper and more accessible to the public. The rapid popularity of these devices among the masses created a new type of consumerism trend that was capitalized by the telecommunication companies providing the consumers with innovative technologies at competitive prices. The craze for the latest gadget in mobile telephones led to the launch of devices that used advanced technology converging the functions of a watch, camera, and phone into one pocket-sized device.

Further innovations and technological breakthroughs gave way to smart devices that could explore the Internet, carry on video conferencing, and download music and movies with sharp clarity and features that enabled smooth picture quality. The mobile phones have evolved greatly as a communication tool. The digital Japanese mobile phone services facilitate exchange of information using both voice and data. The phones have been equipped with Java applications to stimulate the Internet functionalities that allows net surfing, email exchange and file transfers.

Additional features including camera enables the user to shoot pictures, upload and download images, video recording facility, connect to television channels, tunes into radio, play downloaded music with built in speaker systems have added whole new dimension to the mobile phone technology. Mobile phones are now being termed as smart phones owing to their extensive utility and features. The present generation comprises of techno freaks that love possessing hi-fi gadgets with advanced features and enhanced technology.

The mobile phones are being replaced by i-pods launched by Sony and Apple. These devices converge the functionalities of the web, phone, camera, music player, video player, and video gaming consoles. Most of the technology companies in Japan are using convergence strategy to blend multiple functionalities into one simple looking device that is easy to use and carry around. These devices are primarily targeted towards the younger generation. Convergence technology in Japan

Japan is the leading pioneer in new and innovative technology related product development that has spelled huge success for its economic growth. It is one of the leading nations using the convergence strategy to expand market for highly advanced range of products blending functionalities of many components into a single device. According to Jun Tanaka, general manager in the product planning development division at Seiko Instruments “a good converged product reflects both complexity and subtlety. It can be complex in function yet condensed so it’s efficient in use and appearance.”

It is based on these principles that the product Wrist Companion is designed that incorporate the features of a cell-phone, personal computer, and Personal Digital Assistant. This can be worn on the wrist like a watch that makes it convenient to carry around unlike mobile phones that cannot be worn as an accessory. This is being launched by Seiko Instruments of Japan. The company claims to research the needs of the consumer for small and smart electronic devices that can be treated as a fashion accessory and yet meet the high tech needs of the users.

Shortcomings of these technologies However, the efficiency of the individual functionalities may be blurred in the face of such multiple functioning devices. For instance, the camera attached to a mobile phone does not have the required clarity of images and a professional photographer would prefer to use a highly equipped camera specially suited for his needs. Similarly, the music player or video player built into the mobile phone does not have high resolution picture quality that can satisfy the user.

It cannot be compared to the home theatre system or normal television quality. This poses a serious limitation to the utility of such multi-functional devices. Another shortcoming of the use of these convergence technologies is the high cost involved in making these products that reflects on their market prices. The companies launching these products conduct extensive research that incurs huge costs before the product is finally launched into the markets Seiko Instruments conduct market surveys to research consumer needs and preferences before planning their product design.

The Wrist Companion was designed after extensive market research and planning. The end product is sold in the market at a price of 20,000 to 30,000 yen. The Bluetooth mobile technology has also increased the price of the product in the market. However, consumers from higher income range are willing to pay the higher price of these sophisticated devices. These products may be out of reach for many individuals but the growing wealthy population in Japan has created huge market demand.

These products are in high demand in international markets too with many countries importing electronic devices from Japan in bulk. This has influenced the trade balances of Japan positively over the past few decades. The growth and development of digital communication technologies has led to complete restructuring of the business processes and organizational strategies. Business corporations are using the information and communication technologies in areas that can directly impact the business efficiency and add value in terms of cost and benefits.

The positive impacts of the use of these technologies in business ventures are felt in enhanced productivity, increased consumer reach, higher market shares, and efficient customer service. Another dimension to the benefits provided by the increased use of communication technologies is reflected in the change in life style of the individuals who are growing highly dependent on these devices for their day-to-day activities.

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