Several important global conferences of relevance to the Internet are lined up for Japan in 2023. In March, WIDE Project, working alongside a range of other sponsors, will host the 116th IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) meeting in Yokohama, marking the fourth time the event has come to Japan. The G7 Summit will take place in Hiroshima in June, the APNIC Conference will be held in Kyoto in September, and the IGF (Internet Governance Forum) will take place in Kyoto in October. IETF meetings are held to discuss and develop Internet technical standards, and IETF 116 will mark the event’s first time back in Asia since the Covid-19 pandemic, and we expect many participants from overseas to attend. This year’s IGF will also be the first one to take place in Japan, providing a great opportunity for us in Japan to communicate our key messages to the rest of the world. I hope it also provides an opportunity to showcase, both in Japan and internationally, discussion and debate on how we can revitalize and evolve social and economic activity globally in a landscape made of multiple stakeholders, including governments, and in which the existence and use of the Internet is now a given. On November 22, 2022, the Japan IGF Task Force (https://igf2023taskforce.jp/) was launched with a view to the upcoming IGF 2023 and with the mission of initiating, developing, and evolving IGF-related activities in Japan from 2023 onward. The Japan IGF Task Force is chaired by WIDE Project founder Jun Murai of Keio University, with Hiroshi Esaki, director of WIDE Project and president of JPNIC, serving as vice chairman. The task force was kicked off by the Internet Association Japan (IA Japan), the Japan Internet Providers Association (JAIPA), the Japan Network Information Center (JPNIC), and the Japan IGF team set up to promote IGF-related activities in Japan with a view to IGF 2023. The successful launch of the task force is also thanks to the efforts of WIDE Project board member Mariko Kobayashi. Internet governance is an area in which WIDE Project has long been involved, but efforts to invigorate such activity in Japan represent a new avenue for WIDE Project. We look forward to seeing everyone actively participating and contributing.
With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the year 2022 laid bare a raft of problems that had previously been quite imperceptible. More than a few of these problems, I think, came to light because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine revealed even more issues and problems of a serious nature. The pandemic’s sudden emergence in 2020 made all of us aware of just how important the Internet is, it made us realize that we need to build digital infrastructure for a new era, and it made us aware of widening divisions across many aspects of society. These are global issues and problems not confined to Japan, and we must cooperate with the people of the world to solve them. In terms of physical space, we now need to discuss the entire globe itself, including the oceans and space in addition to the terrestrial domain. These make up the space where the Internet is deployed, where national borders do not exist. I believe we need to solve these new problems and issues through autonomous decentralized cooperation among the multiple stakeholders, something that is in essence part of the Internet’s genetic code, and strive to create a world in which sustainable growth, development, and advancement are possible.
September 2020 saw the launch of Japan’s Digital Agency. Many people associated with WIDE Project, including founder Jun Murai, were heavily involved in the Digital Agency’s design and implementation, culminating in its launch. The agency has a role to fulfill as the core driver and leader of the digitization of the Japanese government, of the country’s local governments, and indeed, of all industries. The Digital Agency’s role is to create and implement an environment in which all systems are digitally interconnected, which will be achieved by bringing them all online and networked as the next stage of digitization. This constitutes the realization of the e-Japan concept floated around 2000 and geared toward creating an environment in which computers all over Japan would be connected to the broadband Internet. Around 2000, WIDE Project had recognized that the role of IPv6 was to interconnect all industries and create an environment in which all digital devices have an IP and are interconnected, and we thus began working on research relevant to making the IoT (Internet of Things) possible. This is exactly what is meant by the idea of Society 5.0 as laid out in Japan’s 5th Comprehensive Science and Technology Basic Plan. The 6th Science, Technology and Innovation Basic Plan, which I was also involved in as a committee member, represents a refinement of the 5th Basic Plan and recognizes that Society 5.0 had not actually been implemented, as was made clear by the Covid-19 pandemic, and thus sets out “respect for diversity” and the “true implementation of Society 5.0” as major directional goals. Moreover, the recognition that comprehensive knowledge incorporating an understanding of the humanities in addition to science and technology is essential to the implementation and realization of social innovation, or in short, the recognition that it is crucial for the humanities and the sciences to work together, has prompted a realization that the humanities have a crucial role to play in research and development on science and technology. Indeed, I believe this accords with the notion that discussion and implementation in a multi-stakeholder environment is necessary to achieving WIDE Project’s desire to drive social innovation using new technologies. Further, end users and society are the ones who ultimately evaluate the digital network environment. We recognize that this has been our mission since WIDE Project began.
The Covid-19 pandemic is driving major transformations in politics, economies, and social behavior. This includes the digitization of society and the task of bringing organizations’ individual systems online using Internet technology and networking them globally beyond national borders. In other words, we are seeing an acceleration of the evolution toward cyber-first social and industrial infrastructure premised on society being online. The vision is to transparently interconnect all people, all industries, and all digital devices across the globe and thereby drive the creation of innovative, never-before-seen services. At WIDE Project, with the rise and spread of virtual machines, our perspective on IoT has already evolved from the IoT paradigm into the concept of the IoF (Internet of Functions), and we have started working on research and development geared toward making the IoF a reality. This entails the unbundling of services and hardware, also known as un-wire-ing, and an evolution toward an un-wired global system.
The pandemic revealed and accentuated social problems that already existed before, such as discrimination and widening disparities, it has shown just how much the power of humanity pales in the face of the power of nature, and it has prompted an acute awareness of the importance of pursuing the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). I believe we must unleash the architecture of the Internet in order to achieve the SDGs. The idea of ”compact & networked” cities and systems and the Ministry of the Environment’s concept of Regional Circular and Ecological Spheres embody the goal of creating cities and towns that achieve the SDGs in a compact manner within each region and networking them to create an autonomous decentralized network. This also relates to Japan’s vision for a Digital Garden City Nation. The aim is to create cities and towns that can be networked globally while also having the ability to manage risks and respond to emergencies caused by natural disasters and the like.
With the Internet spreading widely throughout society and a whole range of Internet-based services rolling out, Japan’s 6th Basic Strategy on Science, Technology and Innovation and the Digital Agency’s Basic Plan recognize the task of improving the quality of trust as a key issue. Part of Japan’s efforts to establish trust include work on the Trusted Web at the Trusted Web Promotion Council, under the auspices of the Japanese Cabinet Secretariat’s Headquarters for Digital Market Competition. WIDE Project board members Shigeya Suzuki, Hirochika Asai, and Jun Murai (founder) made major contributions here. I believe we need to remind ourselves of the importance of maintaining and developing an environment conducive to generating the knowledge and experience to design, implement, build, and operate a global research and development network ourselves, and to reaffirm the WIDE Project duties and responsibilities we share with our member organizations.
WIDE Project is operated as a consortium of academic and industrial partners. By offering an environment geared toward practical and applied research—which differs from the objective-based research common to business organizations and fundamental research found in academic circles, where creativity and originality are sought—WIDE Project has been able to achieve results that go beyond those of conventional research institutions. Moreover, WIDE Project always looks at entire systems and individual systems from a global perspective. This is a research model unique to WIDE as a defining element, part of its genetic code, and it is essential that we further develop and maintain this approach to our research, and I would add here that we also have an increasing responsibility to make contributions that will benefit society.
In closing, I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to all those individuals and organizations that have supported the activities of WIDE Project and ask for your continued participation, cooperation, guidance and encouragement. Since the WIDE Project camp in September 2022, we have resumed our face-to-face camp format instead of the online format we had adopted during the pandemic. With your help and cooperation, I am excited at the prospect of being able to expand our collaborative efforts to create new global digital social infrastructure for a post-Covid world.