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G20: More than just a summit

Minister to take the helm in realizing, promoting free flow of data

Mutual DFFT understanding

Question: At the Davos conference, Abe proposed Data Free Flow with Trust (DFFT), which is the concept for facilitating the free flow of data while ensuring trust in privacy and security. What do you think is Japan’s role in realizing this?

Seko: The prime minister’s remark on DFFT drew much attention at the Davos conference.

To aim for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and “Society 5.0,” it’s a must to have continuous innovation. Data is the base for this innovation. Data free flow with trust would therefore rightly serve as the foundation for innovation and future society.

Furthermore, the conventional world of the information revolution used to be digitally closed, but recently, we have seen the gradual formation of a seamless world where physical and cyber elements are integrated in real time, driven by such technologies as artificial intelligence and the “internet of things” incorporating data.

In Japan, real data is accumulated at the actual production site, which is a marked strength compared to other countries. The concept of a strategy called Connected Industries (CI) proposed by METI toward the Fourth Industrial Revolution is to create innovation ahead of the world from the onsite by connecting real data accumulated there with AI and the internet of things.

As a premise, data needs to flow without restrictions and must not be stolen. Having said that, we have seen such moves take place in the world. So, the concept of DFFT has become extremely important. It is still in a conceptual stage, but we have to upgrade the idea, facilitating various factors including e-commerce trade rules.

To start, I’d like to create and share common understanding of the concept of DFFT among the ministers at the G20 ministerial meeting.

Question: Could you tell us your ideas on data usage in the Japanese manufacturing sector and how to improve productivity there?

Seko: I’d like to create an environment and pathways for Japanese industry, which has strength in manufacturing, to increase its global competitiveness by incorporating the idea of CI and utilizing real data accumulated onsite. The CI initiative currently sets five priority fields and has promoted concentrated efforts therein. One of them is manufacturing and robotics.

It is extremely important to improve productivity by creating additional value through constructing new business models. This could be achieved by utilizing data, maximizing additional value in the whole value chain and by promoting automation of the production site with the introduction of robots.

Japan has accumulated high-quality data through good-quality manufacturing. Such data, unfortunately, used to be left onsite and was not fully utilized. So from now on, it’s essential to share and distribute good data in large amounts as much as possible, across the borders of companies while expanding the coordinated fields among them, even if they are competitors.

METI started a pilot project to establish a system for enabling data free flow in fiscal 2018. We have already seen concrete moves from companies. For example, major machine tool companies such as Fanuc Corp., DMG Mori Co., Mitsubishi Electric Corp. and Hitachi Ltd. have participated in this project and they are trying to create a system to share data among different makers.

This is unprecedented in the world, and is a fast-forward effort for smart manufacturing crossing the traditional borders of companies in competition with each other. Using this as an example, I certainly expect that efforts for data sharing and distribution will also progress in other fields, crossing the borders of makers and industries.


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