Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry

The Problem

A powerful 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit Japan on March 11 2011, unleashing massive tsunami waves that crashed into Japan’s eastern coast of Honshu, the largest main island of Japan, resulting in widespread damage and destruction. After the earthquake, various support programs have been developed to support post-disaster recovery and reconstruction. To date, the number of programs developed by four affected prefectures (Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima and Ibaraki) and each of the ministries and agencies totals about 500. But as these support programs are individually announced and provided by the ministries, agencies, and prefectural and municipal governments that created them, it was difficult for disaster victims, companies and employees of local governments to find the most useful information as it pertains to the damage they have experienced.
Booklets with information on support programs were distributed after the disaster, but it is difficult to add updated information to paper media. In addition, it is difficult to get the latest support program information issued by prefectural governments, ministries, and agencies from the front desk, we thought it is essential to build a database that could be used to provide a wide range of support information in a seamless manner.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The Recovery and Reconstruction Support Program Database is a one-stop service site where users can search through a wide variety of support programs operated by the central and local governments. This service provides information on support programs for citizens and enterprises. Main objective of this service is to allow counseling staff and experts at government agencies to easily search thorough a wide range of public support programs available and find ones most suited to each person or business affected by the disaster in need of assistance. In addition to information provided in the handbooks, this service enables to search and find the latest information much faster and more accurately than before.
The greatest benefit of this initiative is the following two points. The first is that the database increased the efficiency of the workload of people in charge at the agencies. The second is that it enables citizens to get the latest information on public support programs much faster and more accurately.
The website recorded approximately 50,000 page views per a month and contributes to promote post-disaster recovery and reconstruction.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) played a core role in planning, drafting and developing the project to provide this service. Aiming at agreement among all governmental ministries to resister the support programs operated by each ministry, the plan and draft were reviewed by relevant ministries in cooperation with the Reconstruction Headquarters in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake, the IT Policy Office of the Cabinet Secretariat, and the Disaster Management Team of the Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication (MIC).
Aiming at reflecting on the opinions and demands from counseling staffs and experts at the local governments, our staff members visited prefectural offices to provide sufficient explanation about the service. In addition, gathering counseling staffs at the local government together, we provided seminars several times at the time of introduction of the database. As a part of our active efforts to support affected people, we made an appeal to administrative document lawyers to use this service and promote greater efficiency in providing support programs.
In cooperation with Non-Profit Organization (NPO) which has been providing public support programs, we set up the standardized format for the staffs at the government agencies to fill out when they resister the support programs operated by their agencies.
In addition to information provided thorough handbooks and websites operated by government agencies, this database enabled rapid information provision and resulted in improving convenience of affected people.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
The main objective of this database is to provide accurate information as a government database, ideally, to be freely used by public.
Support programs registered in the Recovery and Reconstruction Support Program Database are roughly classified into those for individuals and those for businesses. Users can easily find the support program information they need by using the keyword search or by selecting the category that fits their needs. With the RSS feature of the database, users can receive update notifications when new support programs have been registered. This database is designed to allow prefectures other than the devastated four features to register their information, and has the capacity to do so.
By using this Recovery and Reconstruction Support Program Database, residents, companies in disaster-affected areas, contact persons of local governments, and specialists such as lawyers and notary publics who are consulted by disaster victims, can get quick and accurate answers.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
March 2011
In the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake, e-government teams of METI and MIC took emergency action and worked cooperatively for reconstruction support through Information Technology (IT). Forecasting that a one stop service site where users can search through support programs would be necessary in the medium and long term, they began to discuss on developing this service.
April 2011 
Start discussion on providing this service among relevant ministries
Gained consensus on providing this service within the governmental ministries
October 2011
Start to develop the database
January 17 2012
Launched the “Recovery and Reconstruction Support Program Database” (First release) Carried out the questionnaire survey to counseling staff and experts at government agencies to improve the service.
February 2012
Additional functions were added to the database, including providing API and RSS function that sends the latest information to government agency counseling staffs and experts. (Second release)
By the end of 2012
Continuous corrections and function enhancements to respond to other disasters such as change its functions to output brochures in PDF format from websites and establish a mechanism the persons in charge at each of the ministries, agencies and local governments to enter & check data into the database directly.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
Because there were criticisms that it is impossible to build such a government-wide website, it took time to convince these opponents.
One of the biggest criticisms is that it is a difficult and time-consuming task to resister information on support programs across functions and across levels of government (Central- Local- Cities) since it requires consensus from relevant agencies.
In response to this criticism, we collected detailed opinions and demands from counseling staffs to persuade them.
Previously, public support programs have been organized to handbooks but the information format, such as terms and categories in explaining programs, is inconsistent. It required effort to develop the format to standardize information format.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
Human resources for implementing the” Recovery and Reconstruction Support Program Database” were three staff members from METI e-government team. Based on the project plan, we contract out the operation of the website to vendors. The cost of building the database was about 60,000,000 Japanese yen.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
METI started the service and the Reconstruction Headquarters in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake and took over the operation of the database. In addition to the recovery and reconstruction support programs, the system is transferable into the database to search for other kinds of public services programs. Thus, we can step up to the next stage to build the” Public Service Program Database” in the future. Also, considering its low cost, we consider the initiative is sustainable.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
The impact of this initiative is the following two aspects. The first is that it was the first initiative to be successful in building such a large scale government-wide website. As such, this initiative became a best practice in response to manage future disasters as well as building the government-wide “Public Service Program Database”.
The second is that we built a new method of releasing administrative information to the citizens in an easily transmitted form. This is to say, we developed an XML-based file format, which has the standard specifications for file formats, and opened up the API of the database so that organizations such as private companies and NPOs can freely use the database.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Eri Harada
Title:   official  
Telephone/ Fax:   +81-3-3501-2964
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   1-3-1 Kasumigaseki
Postal Code:   1008901
City:   Chiyoda-ku
State/Province:   Tokyo
Country:   Japan

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