Japan’s government has “declared a war on floppy disks”. Decades after the unwieldy magnetic storage disks became obsolete and were phased out globally, Japan’s digital ministry has announced that it will finally do away with floppy disks and other outdated technology in a bid to modernise its bureaucracy.
In a press conference this week, Japan’s digital minister Taro Kono said he was working towards moving administrative procedures online. “Digital Minister declares a war on floppy discs,” he tweeted in English earlier this week. “Digital Agency is to change those regulations so you can use online.”
Digital Minister declares a war on floppy discs.
There are about 1900 government procedures that requires business community to use discs, i. e. floppy disc, CD, MD, etc to submit applications and other forms. Digital Agency is to change those regulations so you can use online.
— KONO Taro (@konotaromp) August 31, 2022
Japan may be home to some of the world’s leading tech giants, but the Japanese have always had an affinity for older technology. According to a BBC report, cassettes were still widely used in 2015. Meanwhile, in 2019, the country’s cyber security minister publicly admitted that he had never used a computer in his life.
But first, what are floppy disks?
Popularly used between the 1970s and 1990s, a floppy disk is a removable disk storage device used to save computer data and programmes. If you haven’t used one, you most certainly have seen one on the top left corner of an MS Word document, where a small animated floppy disk acts as the save button.
The disk, first developed by IBM, is only able to store about 800 KB of data, which is about 0.0008 GB. To put that in perspective, today you can find hard drives with storage up to 20 TB (20,000 GB).
Since 2021, when Kono was administrative reform minister, he has been vocal about his disdain for the old-fashioned fax machine, a fixture in many Japanese government offices, and the hanko seal — an official seal that is used to sign contracts and documents. He directed government ministries to discontinue hanko requirements for several documents, including year-end tax adjustments and tax returns. However, both hanko seals and the fax machine remain in use in many government offices across Japan.
Apart from the floppy disk, Kono said that he also hopes to eliminate the use of CDs and mini disks.
How does the Japanese government plan to discontinue the use of old technology?
A committee formed by the Japanese government found that about 1,900 government procedures still mandated the use of specific storage devices — including the floppy disk, CD and mini disk, Japan Times reported. The digital minister said the government would change its regulations so people will be able to use online services instead.
“We will be reviewing these practices swiftly,” Kono said during a press conference earlier this week, adding that he had Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s full support.
But Kono has faced tremendous pushback from several government officials, who have said that the floppy offers a degree of security and authenticity that an email just cannot, The Guardian reported.