| 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
a.Hybrid service with both DB search and consultation
Since there are numerous support programs and some program descriptions are rather technical, the service was designed not only to allow disaster sufferers to search on the database themselves, but also for local government staffs or professionals including lawyers to be able to search and provide appropriate information to disaster sufferers.
b.Structured data framework and tags
In order to efficiently provide the information issued by various organization, data of support programs were structured in line with government standard in cooperation with the experts in the field. As a result, the service is now considered as a flagship case of government data standardization.
c.Efficient user account management
There are many government authorities, and each organization required individual user account in order to use the service. Since it was too many accounts to manage centrally, it was decentralized by allowing each organization to issue sub-ID using administrative ID provided by the central government.
d.Collaboration with Hackathon
In order to increase the usability of APIs, a Hackathon was held right after the service release and asked participants to develop applications using APIs and raise issues and problems.
| 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The project team was formulated in stages depending on the post-disaster situation.
- The First Stage (January 2012 - March 2014)
Initially the IT Strategic Office of the Cabinet Secretariat (CAS) and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) planned the initiative, the METI then played a core role in planning, drafting and developing the project. In order to reach an agreement among all governmental ministries to resister support programs operated by each ministry in an unified database, the plan and draft of the database was reviewed by relevant ministries including the Reconstruction Headquarters in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake, the Disaster Management Team of the Cabinet Office, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication (MIC).
- The Second Stage (April 2014 - March 2017)
The Reconstruction Agency (RA), former the Reconstruction Headquarters in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake, played a core role in the project, and the CAS and the METI supported the RA.
The Reconstruction Agency has been in charge of the operation of the service, whereas the CAS IT Strategic Office has developed the future vision and the specification to improve the service in 2017, as well as modified the system in order to register additional information related to the Kumamoto Earthquake, the large-scale disaster in Kyushu area. Furthermore the METI has modified the system in order to register SMEs support programs.
- The Third Stage (April 2017- )
The CAS will play a core role in this stage. This is the final stage of the service development, and it aims to establish the service as a national information platform which supports both post disaster period and daily life.
| 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
In order to meet the needs of the disaster affected areas at the time, an agile method was adapted in the Database development.
- March 2011
In the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake, the e-government team of the CAS, the METI and the MIC took emergency action and worked cooperatively for reconstruction support through Information Technology (IT). As it was expected that a one-stop service website where users can search through support programs would be necessary in a medium and long term, the team began to discuss on developing the service.
- April 2011
The team started the discussion on providing the service across relevant ministries.
- August 2011
The team gained consensus on providing the service within the governmental ministries.
- October 2011
The team started developing the Database.
- 17 January 2012
The team launched the “Recovery and Reconstruction Support Program Database” (First release) and carried out the questionnaire survey to counseling staff at government agencies and relevant professionals for further improvement of the service.
- February 2012
Additional functions were introduced to the Database, including APIs, and RSS function which feeds the latest information to counseling staffs at government agency and relevant professionals. (Second release)
- March 2013
Continuous modifications and function enhancements has been undertaken, such as the addition of PDF export function and the direct registration/review system by the agency staffs, in order to respond to the further needs. (Third release)
- April 2013
Operation and budget of the service was transferred from the METI to the RA.
- September 2013
Import of support program information from J-NET (SMEs business support website), which is operated by Organization for Small & Medium Enterprises and Regional Innovation, Japan, has started.
- July 2014
The team has provided core system to The SMEs Support Database, which was newly developed by The Small and Medium Enterprises Agency, as well as developed an import system from SMEs Support Database using APIs.
- April 2016
The Kumamoto Earthquake has occurred.
- June 2016
In order to respond to the Kumamoto Earthquake, support programs for the Kumamoto Earthquake has been additionally registered. At the same time programs to support daily life were added in order to serve wider user’s purpose.
- November 2016
The database structure has started to be re-designed for the next system release.
- April 2017
Operation and budget will be transferred from the RA to the CAS, and system repair will be undertaken based on the new database structure.
The team has had a contract with a think tank on development and operation of the Database. The cost of the Database development (spending by the METI) was about 60 million JPY, the operation cost (spending by the RA) was about 60 million JPY, and the redesign cost (spending by the CAS) was about 10 million JPY.
“Recovery and Reconstruction Support Program Database” has been operated by the team consists of 3 staffs at each stage, and team members were also a member of: Open Government Team by the METI, Disaster Sufferers Support Team by the RA and E-Government Team by the CAS, respectively.
| 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
- Counseling staffs at local government
Aiming to reflect opinions and demands from counseling staffs at local governments and relevant professionals, the team have visited prefectural offices in order to provide sufficient explanation about the service, and provided trainings to counseling staffs at the time of the introduction of the database. Also as part of the team’s active effort to support disaster sufferers, the team made an appeal to administrative lawyers to utilize the Database and Service, and to promote the use of support programs.
- Non-Profit Organization (NPO)
In cooperation with Asukoe, an NPO organization which provides supports for public services, the team created the standardized registration format for support programs, which are to be filled in by the local agency staffs. Since Asukoe has conducted a research on standardization of public services in cooperation with the METI before the Earthquake, their knowledge and experience in the field was useful to the team for developing the Database. Also as Asukoe provides a database, which explains about support program information in an easy-to-understand manner including the ones by private organizations, the contents of “Recovery and Reconstruction Support Program Database” has been integrated to their database using APIs.
- Think tank
Mitsubishi Research Institute, a Japanese think tank, was also a member of the research team on standardization of public service together with Asukoe, and their experience was utilized for developing and operating the service of “Recovery and Reconstruction Support Program Database”. They also supported policy evaluations such as needs survey in disaster affected area.
| 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The initiative contributed to the advancement of the following SDGs:
1) End poverty in all its forms everywhere
3) Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages
8) Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all
9) Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation
11) Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
The Great East Japan Earthquake caused not only family loss, but also house, property and job loss for many people. Since it was hard for some disaster sufferers to reconstruct without any support systems, it was very important to widely disseminate support program information in order to assist their lives and work.
Output 1: The number of page views
The number of page views exceeded 100 thousand immediately after the Earthquake. 6 years has passed since the disaster but it still gets more than 40 thousand page views per month in the fewest, and 130 thousand in the latest (January 2017). It shows that the database is contributing to the widespread dissemination of support program information.
Following outputs were not the result only from the Database service, however we believe that the database contributed in enhancing outputs since there were many disaster sufferers consulted local governments and utilized the Database.
Output 2: The number of refugees
The number of refugees decreased from 470 thousand immediately after the Earthquake to 131 thousand in December 2016.
Output 3: The number of houses reconstructed
132 thousand private houses and 220 thousand public houses were reconstructed as of December 2016.
Output 4: The number of business reconstructed
588 shops and factories were reconstructed and 11,122 SMEs group subsidies were implemented as of December 2016.
Output 5: The number of job openings
Jobs-to-applicants ratio of major affected prefectures has recovered from 0.45 immediately after the Earthquake to 1.0 in December 2015.
The reasons why the initiative was effective:
- Since the service was mainly promoted to and well-recognized by local governments, it was effectively utilized at consultation sessions with disaster sufferers.
- Since the service was designed to be able to search national/prefectural support programs easily, local government staff could get and recommend those support programs to disaster sufferers.
| 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
The biggest obstacle was a vertically structured administrative system and mindset of governmental organizations. Although all relevant miniseries worked together as one with a shared vision of reconstruction of disaster affected areas immediately after the Earthquake, the issue of vertically structured mindset has arisen as time goes by and personnel transfer carried out.
The details of the obstacles in each phase are as follows:
- The Planning Phase
There were strong criticisms in the government that it would be impossible to build such a government-wide website, therefore it took a long time convincing opponents in order to turn the idea into reality. The initial discussion on the Database system has started in April 2011, however it took over 5 months to actually reach the agreement to commence development in August 2011. One of the biggest criticisms at that time was that registration of support program information in both national and local levels would be too difficult and time-consuming because it would require consensus from all relevant agencies. In order to hit back the criticisms, the team collected real opinions and needs from disaster affected areas, and persuaded opponents on the value of the Database system.
- The Operation Phase
Although there were opinions from administrative side that the duplicate registration both to ministry website and the Database was too much of a workload, the team explained the importance of having a unified database and asked them to cooperate. However in order to avoid the same problem for the case of SME support programs, the team cooperated with SME Support Program Database to make a unified system using APIs. The Database is a cross-governmental system and the CAS is in charge of inter-governmental coordination among all relevant ministries.