‘Empathy is needed to build a brighter future’: five minutes with Global Government Summit participant Katsura Ito of Japan

By on 15/01/2023 | Updated on 15/01/2023

Katsura Ito, commissioner, National Personnel Authority, Japan, tells Global Government Forum about boosting Japan’s standing on the world stage, digital literacy, and her passion for promoting sake

In this sister series to our ‘Five minutes with’ interviews, we share insights from the civil and public service leaders attending our Global Government Summit in Singapore in February.

What are you most interested in discussing at the Global Government Summit?

I very much look forward to discussing reskilling and the importance of empathy with attendees.

What drew you to a career in the civil service?

Working in US based IT companies for a few decades, I came to realise that Japan’s presence has been shrinking in the global context, or even that it’s deemed to fall short in terms of economic growth, female leadership, and digital transformation. When the Japanese government nominated me to fill this role to revitalise the organisation of government officials, it was an opportunity too good to pass up on, as I could make a great impact for the brighter future of Japan.

What have you achieved in your career that you are most proud of?

Serving in leadership roles in various organisations spanning from sales to technology development, I’ve realised my passion has always been for the people and organisation.

Most recently, I am proud to have made a positive impact in closing the digital skills gap in Japan by training and certifying over 100,000 people in cloud technologies through the Japan Skilling Initiative programme as part of Microsoft Japan.

What do you like most about working in the civil service?

The potential level of impact that can be made through the civil service always inspires me. The NPA (National Personnel Authority, Japan) is in charge of the National Public Service Act which impacts the success and wellbeing of 291,000 national public employees and extends its influence more broadly to national/local employees, of which there are 3,353,000, and even to millions of employees in related organisations.  

How might the civil service be different in 25 years’ time?

Japan’s civil service – which currently has little mobility between it and the private sector – is likely to be more open to the external labour market in the future. Social entrepreneurs may play key roles in the centre of government organisations. Digitalisation will be accelerated, and high digital literacy is required in every aspect of civil service delivery.

Which government programmes are you most inspired by and why?

e-Estonia has revealed the power of digital systems, and e-residency requires us to re-think about what the definition of citizenship is. In an ever-changing world with growing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, it’s critical to possess out-of-the-box thinking even in the civil service.

Can you name one lesson or idea from abroad that has helped you and your colleagues?

Skills Future Singapore, which invests in people via skilling and employment, highlights the importance of human capital. The Japanese government recently announced massive investment into re-skilling and workforce mobility through skill-based employment, where we are expected to utilise what we have learned from the Singaporean government.

What attributes do you most value in people?

I believe that empathy is important for people from diverse backgrounds to build a brighter future.

Do you have any unusual hobbies?

I’m a certified Japanese sake sommelier, and I have a strong passion for promoting sake along with Japanese culture and tradition.

What is your favourite thing to do at the weekend?

Visiting Japanese local towns and meeting people who brew sake!

Find out more about the Global Government Summit, including the agenda and list of participants here. Please note, it is an invite only event.

Global Government Forum is now on Apple News! Subscribe to our channel to get all GGF’s latest news and insight on your device.

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *