The Recovery and Reconstruction Support Program Database
National Strategy Office of IT, Cabinet Secretariat

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Japan has suffered from numerous natural disasters in the past, and these disasters led Japanese stakeholders to accumulate sufficient know-how in disaster relief. However even with an adequate knowledge and experience, it is difficult for them to handle a large scale disaster which affects widespread areas with a huge number of disaster sufferers. It often takes long time for post-disaster recovery and reconstruction, and it is necessary to provide not only a temporary support, but also a system which support refugees’ life and work for a long term. A powerful 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit Japan on March 11 2011, and massive tsunami waves 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 issued to support post-disaster recovery and reconstruction. To date, the number of programs issued by four major affected prefectures (Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima and Ibaraki) and national ministries and agencies totals about 500, however there were following problems needed to be addressed concerning the usability of information on support programs. Problem 1. There were too many independent information sources. As support programs were individually announced and provided by each organization, and its eligibility varies depends on the levels and types of damage which sufferers have experienced, it was difficult for disaster sufferers, companies and employees of local governments to efficiently find the most relevant information. Problem 2. It was difficult for disaster sufferers to get the latest information. Booklets with information on support programs were distributed after the disaster, but it was difficult to update information in a printed format. It was also difficult to get the latest information from the front desk of local governments and ministries. Problem 3. It was difficult to deliver information to refugees spread nationally. One of the significant characteristics of the Great East Japan Earthquake was widespread refuge areas. Since it was largely residential areas which affected by the disaster, sufferers had to take refuge not only locally but also nationally. Information on eligible support programs for refugees were essentially provided by local government of original location through post. However local government which accepted refugees also actively advised on refugees’ reconstruction, and they had a need for a system which enables them to access to the whole relevant information, so that they can provide accurate and useful information to refugees. Problem 4. There were no system to provide information on support programs by private entities. There was a demand by disaster sufferers to utilize not only public supports but also private supports. Private companies provides support programs such as scholarships, and a unified system which enables them to access both public and private information were required. Problem 5. Taxonomy of information on support programs was not unified. Information of support programs was disorganized since support programs were provided by various different organizations. It was also difficult to search support programs with a certain purpose since terms were not unified. (e.g. loan programs)

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
- One-stop inter-organizational information search service serving the post-disaster sufferers’ purpose. - Dual-use information search service supporting both post-disaster period and daily life. - Sustainable information search service connecting with private services by using API.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
We believed that it was essential to build a database that could be used to provide a wide range of support program information in a seamless manner. Solution 1. Database (to Problem1, 2 and 3) The Recovery and Reconstruction Support Program Database is a one-stop service website where users can search through a wide variety of support programs issued by national and local governments. The service provides information on support programs for citizens and companies. The main objective of the Database is to provide accurate information as a government database and 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 not only the devastated four prefectures but also other prefectures to register their information. By using the Recovery and Reconstruction Support Program Database, residents, companies in disaster-affected areas, local government staffs, and professionals such as lawyers and notary publics who have consulted by disaster sufferers, can receive quick and solid solutions. Solution 2. Expert’s assistant and Print function It was pointed out that information of support programs on the Database were too difficult to actually utilize for some users. Therefore if necessary, users can seek assistance for counseling staff at government agencies and relevant professionals, to provide help to search thorough a wide range of public support programs available, and find ones most suited to each situations. Since there was also a demand for keeping information in printed format, print function was added to the service. In addition to information provided through booklets and website, the Database increased efficiency of users seeking for the latest information of support programs. Solution 3. RSS and APIs (to Problem 4) When registering a new support program, it is required to properly review its credibility. Therefore the Database only allow national and local government to register, but provide APIs contains all support program information to enable mashup with private support programs. And the service creates RSS feeds based on the search criteria entered, and deliver up-to-date information to users. Solution 4. Tags (to Problem 5) It was difficult to unify terms and classification of support programs, therefore programs were organized and managed using tags, which resulted improving users’ searchability of the Database. Strategy Achieve quick recovery and reconstruction from disaster by providing disaster sufferers required support program information through the database. Objectives 1.To enable citizens to access to the latest information on public support programs much faster and more accurately. 2.To increase work efficiency of agency staffs who are in charge of support programs. The Recovery and Reconstruction Support Program Database website recorded approximately 50,000 page views per a month and contributed to the progress of post-disaster recovery and reconstruction. By utilizing support programs, reconstruction of individual lives and businesses is improving as shown in the following numbers: - The number of refugees decreased from 470 thousand immediately after the Earthquake to 131 thousand in December 2016. - 132 thousand private houses were reconstructed, 588 shops and factories were reconstructed and 11,122 SMEs group subsidies were implemented to date.

C. Execution and Implementation

 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.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
Key benefit 1: Support program information delivered to nationally spread refugees The number of programs registered to the Database totals approximately 900 to date, and these information are accessible from all over Japan. Therefore even though refugees were spread nationally, it is possible to consult on support programs which are applicable for them at any local government. Likewise local government staffs are able to accurately provide information to refugees came from various locations using the Database. Key benefit 2: Information provided according to the needs of disaster sufferers Counseling staffs at government agencies and professionals such as lawyers and notary public can search through the Database in order to find the most suitable programs to each disaster sufferer. It is also useful that required information which meets each person’s criteria can be obtained as RSS feeds. Key benefit 3: Reduction of consultation and waiting time Since it became easier to search relevant support programs by the Database, length of consultation was shortened, hence waiting time for consultation was also shortened. Since disaster sufferers are busy in reconstruction of house and work during a recovery period, it is very important to ensure efficient use of their time. Key benefit 4: Reduction of local government staffs’ workload Local government staffs are very busy during a recovery period from a disaster, therefore it is important to assist their consultation work to be done efficiently utilizing the Database. In addition, support staffs from other local governments are also able to search through local support programs using the Database. Disaster sufferers and local government staffs of both major affected areas and other areas were surveyed in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2017 with the purpose of determining up-to-date needs of disaster sufferers in terms of support program information. As a result, 78% answered that the area coverage of the Database should be expanded, and 80% answered that support programs which assists daily life should be included to the Database. Therefore the team is currently preparing to expand the Database function in order to respond to disaster sufferers’ needs.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
Prior to the Database, support program information were provided in booklets which contains whole government information, and at each ministry website. However the usability of booklets was not ideal as it was difficult to quickly update information in the printed format. Also as it covered the whole support programs related to disaster recovery and reconstruction, it may include the ones which are irrelevant to specific users. Furthermore formats and templates of support program information provided by ministry website were not unified, and it was the same situation for local government information. Therefore disaster sufferers had to thoroughly look into all following information. - Brochures in printed format contains whole government information - Each ministry website - Each local government website (both prefectural and municipal level) The Database solved these issues and unified all individual information sources, ensuring integrity of the information. By utilizing the Database, disaster sufferers no longer need to check all individual information sources regularly because they can receive RSS feeds which contains update notifications when relevant new programs was registered. The team provides user account to each agency to enable them to directly register and manage information anytime. The team also sends out a letter and give a briefing session to ministry and local government once a year to request registering new and delete old information as necessary. Furthermore registered information on the Database must contain contact information and reference URL, and these information improve accountability of the Database.

 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)
In a large scale disaster, family, house, property and job would be lost instantly and all on a sudden any people may turn into vulnerable disaster sufferers. For disaster sufferers, securing a place to live is the most important task, therefore the Database took top priority on support programs registry related to housing category. As a result housing category has been the most popular contents in the Database in terms of page view counts and we believe that the Database contributed to the improvement of the situation of vulnerable disaster sufferers. It is also important for disaster sufferers to secure work in order to get back to normal life in a long term. The number of page views on the contents related to work is still high as of September 2016, and it shows that the Database has also been serving disaster sufferers’ long term needs.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   National Strategy Office of IT, Cabinet Secretariat
Institution Type:   Ministry  
Contact Person:   Kenji Hiramoto
Title:   Chief Strategist  
Telephone/ Fax:   +81335813509
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   3-3-1 Kasumigaseki
Postal Code:   1000013
City:   Chiyoda-ku
State/Province:   Tokyo

          Go Back

Print friendly Page