‘It is essential to think positively’: five minutes with Kenji Hiramoto

By on 23/10/2022 | Updated on 23/10/2022

The head of data strategy, executive officer at the Government of Japan’s Digital Agency, tells GGF about the country’s government interoperability framework, modernising institutions, and why failing can be an asset

What drew you to a career in the civil service?

After graduating from university, I worked for an IT company and a consulting firm. At that time, I was invited to work for the government. After two years in the government, I returned to the private sector, but found the scale of government work so significant and exciting that I decided to return. I am what is called a ‘revolving door’.

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

My team has established a government interoperability framework as the foundation for Japan’s data environment. This will enable the smooth and sustainable implementation of various social activities in the digital society. In addition, through promoting the Open Government Project, Japan was ranked first in the e-participation category of the United Nations eGovernment Survey 2022.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given in your working life?

It is important to take on new challenges. By continuing to take on challenges, you will attract excellent colleagues. Working with them is very creative and meaningful. Even if I fail, the experience will be an asset for me in the future.

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

Planning to change society is a wonderful job. Isn’t it exciting to look into the future and think about new social systems? I also think gathering and organising opinions from the field to do these things is very creative work.

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

LegalTech is an exciting idea. We must develop and revise our institutions to keep up with new technologies. We need to change our institutional processes to respond quickly to technological change. We also need to consider global institutional alignment.

Are there any projects or innovations in Japan that might be valuable to your peers overseas?

There are many [natural] disasters in Japan, so there are a variety of disaster risk management technologies. We are working on a disaster mitigation project to reduce the damage caused by disasters by providing information to citizens before they happen. In addition, we are developing ‘sensor nets’ to respond appropriately in a disaster.

What attributes do you most value in people?

Positive thinking is important. In the digital society, we may face difficulties that we have never faced before. It is essential to think positively about how we can get through difficult situations.

What is your favourite thing to do at weekends?

I like to relax in a hot spring by the sea. I sometimes work in a hotel room at a hot spring resort on weekdays and spend the weekend there too. Remote work at a resort followed by a weekend trip is a great combination.

What is your favourite book?

I like to read books about the history of government and society. The history of Japanese names and location names is also very interesting. And I like the history of kanji characters (Chinese characters) and seals. This knowledge has been valuable in my work.

What is your dream holiday destination?

The Ogasawara Islands are located 1,000km south of Tokyo. It is a World Heritage Site surrounded by beautiful nature with its own unique ecosystem. I would like to visit this special place someday.

Read more from our ‘Five minutes with’ series:
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‘Great projects are being pushed out slowly and quietly’: five minutes with… Iceland’s Vigdís Jóhannsdóttir
‘They call it public service for a reason; you are serving something that is bigger than yourself’: five minutes with Stephen Burt, chief data officer of Canada

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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.

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