Heading home, your new broadband cell phone connects to a number of your appliances. It ensures your bath will be run by the time you get home, and tells the fridge to have those beers cooled to just above freezing. The fridge, in a panic over there being less than a glassful of milk for breakfast, orders a bottle from the online supermarket, and next contacts your wife, who calls to say you forgot the milk again and "will never change." Then comes a voice message giving you the quickest route home, downloaded from the network and based on weather and traffic conditions. This may all sound like it's straight out of a science fiction movie, but what is being called the "new Internet" is right around the corner, and Japan, as usual, is leading the way.


Five years ago Japan lagged behind in creating an information society but today it is perhaps the closest to achieving a "ubiquitous society." The first e-Japan policy was launched in 2001 by Prime Minister Mori, who many would probably remember for his political gaffes rather than for his prowess in IT policy. The government first adopted a Basic IT Law and established the IT Strategic Headquarters. Soon after, it introduced the e-Japan Priority Policy Program, which had the lofty goal of creating an Internet society in which all information is digitized and universally available via a low-cost and convenient open network. The goal was to propel Japan to the forefront of IT within five years.

The years 2000-2001 also saw the birth of fixed-line broadband Internet in Japan, with established telcos such as NTT, and also IT ventures, including Softbank and eAccess, beginning to offer ADSL services. Subscriber numbers rocketed, and not only is Japan's broadband penetration rate one of the highest in the world today, but these companies are now able to offer an incredible 100mps to the home.

Another e-Japan strategy, an e-Japan Acceleration Package, and three more Priority Policy Programs later, and an IT society has evolved in Japan that could not have even been imagined five years ago. Leading the way is Yahoo! Japan, the giant Internet portal site, which was only established in 1996, and is now valued at over USD$31 billion. Its views now top 300 million a month, which, on a daily rate, is more than double the number of readers of Japan's four major newspapers.

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