Kosodate Town & Information Sharing Infrastructure Program
Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
While central and municipal governments provide various kinds of public services appropriate for citizens at different social needs, for instance, public services relating to childcare, education, nursing care, business support, and disaster prevention, it is frequently pointed out that information provision by governments is inadequate in the following points. 1.Most information provided is usually data on maps, statistics, or regarding budgets. Information on public services, which is highly demanded by citizens, is inconsistent. 2.Regarding information provision on public services, governments set up standardized formats, such as terms and categories in explaining services at schema level, including outline and requirements, but rarely do so at a contents level. In the case of information on child support allowances, for example, standardized format at schema level indicates basic information such as eligible persons, the amount of allowance, and documents required. In contrast, those at the contents level describe details such as requirements eligibility. Public services are individually announced and provided by municipal governments, and their information formats are not consistent. It is therefore difficult for citizens to find and understand the most useful services, and compare them with services provided by other municipal service providers. In addition, it decreases the efficiency of the workload of people in charge at municipal governments to manage, update, and disseminate the latest information. At same time, private firms such as real estate firms and Non Profit Organizations (NPOs), for instance, want to gather wide range of public service information effectively. In fact, private companies require such information for their businesses and NPOs want to use them in creating new services to provide public information for citizens.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
Our main objective is effective information provision for citizens, municipalities, and businesses in a seamless manner by developing a standardized data format for public service information. Specifically, it is essential to set up the standardized format of public service information at both schema level and contents level. The latter is required to develop standardized format for detailed information on public services which are provided by municipal governments. “Kosodate Town” (kosodate means child raising in Japanese) is a public service guide to support childbirth and child raising. In this service, municipal governments are actively engaged in publicity in collaboration with private companies so as to promote the effective use of standardized public service information. Specifically, municipal governments put corporate web advertisements on their websites to get funding to run web services and booklets, and create new business models. Simultaneously, the Japanese government will create the information exchange framework at a national level and implement a standardization approach. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) developed an information exchange framework for government agencies which is necessary for the effective use of public data. With the use of the framework, the NPO “Asukoe” provides public service information. Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) METI previously developed a dataset framework for an information exchange framework and datasets for public service information. This experience helped it to gain operational know-how by applying the system in promoting the policies to the public. Through the implementation of such measures, METI recognized the importance of developing a vocabulary that could be understood by the public so as to ensure the smooth operation of datasets. METI, therefore, prepared the “Infrastructure for Multilayer Interoperability” (IMI). IMI is a system enabling the exchange of data, primarily vocabulary sets, which results in the facilitation of government-wide information sharing. This system consists of a “core vocabulary” (i.e. names, addresses) and “domain vocabulary” which is used in relation to its type of objective. NPO Asukoe NPO Asukoe, (asukoe can be translated as “Voice of Tomorrow”), developed an open data information platform for public service “Universal Menu (UM).” In cooperation with METI, Asukoe developed a dataset framework for UM and a dataset for public service information. Based on this experience, NPO Asukoe developed the abovementioned Kosodate Town, from which users can easily understand and find public services related to childcare through the website. Collaborating with municipal governments, Asukoe aggregates, organizes and provides public service information in ways citizens can easily understand and find through booklets and websites. At the same time, it finds corporate sponsors to manage this service. As a result, municipal governments can launch this service without any financial cost since the business model of this service is a public-private partnership project utilizing contents alliances with private firms. The only thing municipal governments need to do in this business model, in turn, is to provide public information relating to childcare services, and they can prepare websites and booklets which allow citizens to access the most suitable public childcare services. In addition, Asukoe is now developing childcare domain as a part of IMI project of METI.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
This service is creative from the perspectives of increasing information accessibility and public service efficiency. The use of “contents sets” of public services allows the government to build a public service database that is easily understandable and accessible. At the same time, instead of relying on the individual knowledge of government officials, this service increases the efficiency in providing public services. Furthermore, this service allows municipal governments to provide citizens with public service information through various ways such as websites and booklets without any financial cost. What made this an innovative business model possible was the collaboration among municipal governments, NPOs, and private companies. From a technical perspective, this service is profound and innovative in the following aspects. Firstly, citizens can refer to the public service information by using mobile phones and scanning QR codes provided in the booklets. In addition, this service is the first project in Japan in which information frameworks, such as datasets and a public vocabulary were developed in parallel with applied services.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
Since dataset research project in FY2011, METI has been operating a “Recovery and Reconstruction Support Program Database,” a one-stop service site where users can search through a wide variety of support programs operated by the central and local government in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011, the experience contributes to gain knowledge and know-how in information sharing among other ministries and local governments for post disaster support. In coordination with Kobe City, Asukoe launched the first Kosodate Town project in August 2012 utilizing knowledge and know-how accumulated by the government. Since then, a series of Kosodate Town projects have been launched and 70 municipal governments are providing public service information through this service as of December 20, 2013. Eventually, they seek to increase the number to 200 in the future. The government and Asukoe are working together in developing datasets for childcare as a part of the IMI project and ensuring interoperability with the vocabulary that is used in other childcare service information in Japan. In addition to datasets for childcare, datasets for nursing care service information will be added in the future. Considering the emerging international standard on information sharing strategies, METI will develop datasets for sightseeing information including museums, temples, and public transportation as a part of the IMI project. METI also considers applying the IMI project to provide information for SMEs. Integrating information provided in Kosodate Town and the one in Mirasapo, METI will examine new services in the future. With regard to the IMI project, METI decided to expand the range of the project and standardize the information format not only at the dataset level but also at the vocabulary level according to the “New IT Strategy of Japan” in June 2013. The Japanese government will by the end of March 2014 publish an action plan dealing with how it will implement the strategy.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
METI initially started the promotion of the standardization of the information format, and arranged the comprehensive coordination of a variety of applied services created by the IMI project. Eventually, the standardization of the information format grew into national project and government will create the information exchange framework at a national level In coordination with METI, the Information-technology Promotion Agency (IPA) develops the database used in the public vocabulary framework. The IPA also examines the public vocabulary, including childcare. NPO Asukoe provides the service to disseminate public childcare service information. Asukoe organizes and implements datasets and vocabulary relating to childcare support systems with the use of the database. Municipal governments provide public service information relating to childcare. Corporate sponsors provide funding for municipal governments to operate websites and publish booklets. IT firms such as Microsoft Japan and consulting firms such as Mitsubishi Research Institution provide technical support in the project.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
METI The financial cost to develop the framework (i.e. “dataset project” and “IMI project”) is 43 million yen, and the cost to apply the framework (i.e. “Recovery and Reconstruction Support Program Database”) was 114 million yen. The human resources for implementing the project are six staff members from METI’s e-government team whose main mission is to promote and enhance open government in Japan. The main members are in charge of other projects relating to open government, geographic systems, national ID, and the government-wide travel expense system. IPA The IPA will invest 200 million yen for this project to build the platform in FY2014. Human resources for this project are four staff members in charge of some other projects. Municipal governments No financial costs are incurred since corporate sponsors provide funding to cover the cost to run the website, booklets, and personnel expenses for NPO staff members. Humanitarian costs are low since municipal governments need only to provide and upload information for the website, and staff members from Asukoe work on editing and other logistics operations. Asukoe Eight staff members from Asukoe edit a page on the website. No financial cost is incurred since they can afford their personnel expenses with the funding provided by the corporate sponsors of the project. Asukoe has total control over budget management for this project.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
As of December 20, 2013, 70 municipal governments are providing public service information relating to childcare through Kosodate Town. The website in collaboration with Kobe City, for instance, recorded 11,000 page views per month. Kobe City will carry out a questionnaire survey to citizens using the website to improve the service. A municipal government can reduce the financial cost in developing the website to disseminate their public service information, which costs approximately 6 million yen for the initial cost and 3.6 million yen for annual operational cost. Seventy municipal governments have provided childcare service information with this service over the past two years, thus this service has contributed to a cost reduction of 924 million yen in total. If 200 municipal governments introduce this service for five years, which Asukoe set as a goal to achieve in the future, the total cost reduction is expected to be 2.5 billion yen. METI effectively applies the framework developed in this project in various ways; for example, METI installed the framework on the open data portal site “Open Data METI”, Government CIO website, and Mirasapo mentioned above. The METI is considering applying the framework to disaster information in the future.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
As the Kosodate Town project is implemented at the municipal government level, one of the fundamental indicators of success is the number of municipal governments providing information with Kosodate Town. Another indicator is the result of the questionnaire survey on user satisfaction and the page view record of the website With regard to IMI, one indicator of success is the number of municipal governments implementing the IMI framework and the number of services utilizing the framework. Another index is the number of vocabulary sets developed in this project.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
It took time for NPO Asukoe to gain understanding from municipal governments about the whole context of this project since it was the first public service project based on a gratuitous contract with an NPO over the operation and management of the project. As such, Asukoe illustrated the cost benefits of the project. At the national level, relevant ministries achieved a consensus to develop a public vocabulary which is consistent with international standards and to take actions as a whole-government according to the New IT Strategy under the Abe administration set forth in the Cabinet Decision of June 14, 2013. In fact, the concept of the standardization of datasets and vocabulary is too complicated and difficult for officials in charge at municipal governments to understand since they are not information system professionals. This framework, however, is deployed as a system behind the public service, thus specialized training to handle this framework is not required for these officials

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
While it was strongly required and important for citizens to be able to access detailed information on childcare of a consistent quality everywhere, such public services were not provided previously. This service allows citizens to easily search through public services relating to childcare and compare them with similar services provided by other municipalities. In fact, users can search information by area and condition, which is a useful tool when deciding in which city to live. In addition, this service is beneficial for NPOs providing child support programs since they can reduce the financial cost and time to gather public service information As a result, they can provide a higher level of service based on the information gathered through this framework. Municipal governments can reduce the financial cost to disseminate their public service information by making a gratuitous contract with an NPO over the operation and management of the project. We will conduct questionnaire survey on user satisfaction to measure the effect of this service on citizens. We are providing a number of NPOs with information about this service so as to measure the effect of this service on NPOs. The effect of this service on municipal governments: Municipal governments achieved 9.6 million yen of cost reduction in average; approximately 6 million yen for the initial cost and 3.6 million yen for annual operational cost.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
Since Asukoe gathers public service information on childcare, municipal governments do not have to spend funds for such time consuming tasks. It resulted in increasing the efficiency of the workload of people in charge in municipal government. Moreover, considering that the funding is provided by corporate sponsors, this service is highly sustainable from a financial perspective. We consider Kosodate Town, the public-private- partnership (PPP) for the public information service, is transformable to other services since tools are fully packaged for those who want to launch similar projects and are transformable. We will implement this system to provide nursing care information in the future. Information sharing infrastructure developed in this project is internationally transferable since it is not only standardized in Japan but also compatible with international interoperability projects.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
-Create a package to launch new public-private partnership project (PPP) Without knowledge and expertise, it is a difficult and time consuming task for both municipal governments and private firms to launch a new PPP project, thus we created a package to launch the new Kosodate Town project. As a result, it is possible to facilitate the rapid introduction and development of a new service environment. -Collaboration of information framework and services In the case where METI provides a service without a common framework, information sharing among different divisions and services tends to be vulnerable. At the same time; implementation experiment with ongoing services is required in developing information frameworks. Development of information frameworks and services should be worked together effectively. It is also necessary to make best practices so as to widely promote this service model. -Standardization of information format at dataset and vocabulary levels Standardizing information format at dataset and vocabulary levels facilitates efficient information sharing and collaboration between different divisions and services. Instead of requiring the legacy system to use standardized datasets, it is designed to work as a key converter in information exchange. This enables smooth implementation to the legacy system.

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:  
E-mail:   harada-eri@meti.go.jp  
Address:   1-3-1 Kasumigaseki
Postal Code:   100-8901
City:   Chiyoda-ku
State/Province:   Tokyo

          Go Back

Print friendly Page