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Solving the Issue of External Characters in E-Government

The Perspective of Human-Computer Relationships

February 2013
Senior Research Fellow Toshihiro Enami



The issue of external characters has long been a thorn in the side of promoters of e-government, but thanks to METI’s 2010 “Character Information Base Architecture” and MIC’s 2011 survey on the current state of external characters, the issue has become clear, and a thread has been found which may unravel the tangled skein of the problem and lead to a solution.

However, the following hurdles lie along the current path being pursued towards a solution,:

  • Even if external characters are organized based on the “Character Information Base” (Juki Net Uniform Characters and Family Register Uniform Characters) to deal with UTF16 and IVS/IVD, they will still not be able to deal with the remaining external characters (approximately 37,000) used in municipalities.
  • The existence of external characters has cost the Japanese economy \3 billion, hindered the development of a strongly informatized society, and reduced the overall performance of Japanese society. Increasing the number of characters will not lead to a solution for the following reasons:
  1. Japanese people are not able to master even the range of JIS Level 1 and Level 2 characters; mastering the set of 60,000 characters, including Juki Net Uniform Characters and Family Register Uniform Characters is impossible.
  2. When dealing with the above set of 60,000 characters, not only does recognition speed decrease, the rate of recognition mistakes increases greatly. In particular, the elderly show a great reduction in recognition speed and an increase in recognition mistakes; increasing the number of characters would not be appropriate for an ageing society.

For these reasons, instead of increasing the number of characters used by computers, I suggest legally restricting the use of characters as a method for solving this issue.

(Proposal 1) Restrict the use of kanji (i.e. kanji in names and places) in administrative procedures to JIS Level 1 and 2 and prohibit the use of all other kanji by law. In case a name or place name currently uses a prohibited kanji, change that kanji to a similar one within the JIS Level 1 and 2 range or, if no such kanji exists, change it to hiragana or katakana. When changing kanji in a person’s name, it is best if said person’s agreement can be obtained, but in cases where this is impossible, the change will be carried out under official authority.

(Proposal 2) Taking into consideration the fact that some people may feel a sense of identity towards their name’s kanji, the Family Register will be excepted from (Proposal 1). This may result in cases where the kanjis in the Family Register and Basic Resident Register differ, but the person’s identity may be confirmed by the addition of a resident card code (or My Number) to the Family Register entry.

More Information

  • The full text is unavailable in English for this report.
    The original Japanese full text is here [2550 KB].