Greetings from the founder

Jun Murai, Ph.D.
Jun Murai, Ph.D. Founder

Greetings from the founder

The year 2020 was both a historic year and a long one in terms of everything WIDE Project has been working on—the Internet, computer science, information services, and the deployment of digital technology throughout society.

First of all, when COVID-19 descended on us at the beginning of the year, people began using the Internet to facilitate all sorts of social activity—working from home, school closures, and generally staying indoors and isolating. In my mind I felt some measure of relief that we made it in time to cope with this. I was also concerned about the sharp changes in Internet traffic patterns. But on the infrastructure front, I think both FTTH and mobile proved equal to the task. Over WIDE Project’s 30-plus-year history, a particularly fundamental focus has been its members’ efforts to build Japan’s Internet and develop its information environments, and as such, WIDE Project has contributed to overcoming the critical circumstances we have faced of late. These contributions are something we should dispassionately take stock of and use to inform future research efforts, but they are also something I think we can be quietly proud of.

More broadly, however, people have of late ridiculed Japan as suffering a “digital defeat”, arguing that in comparison with other nations, Japan was unable to handle government and administrative services online during the pandemic’s emergency periods, and that it was unable to take evidence-based action using digital data. Global pandemics prompt comparisons with how other nations are coping. The development and utilization of infrastructure— these two themes represent two key roles of the IT policies Japan rolled out under the “Advanced Information and Telecommunication Society” banner in 2000. While the development of Internet infrastructure, in which WIDE has primarily been involved, is progressing nicely, the utilization of that infrastructure, particularly in terms of advancing administrative services, has undeniably been lagging.

In the context of WIDE’s history, my own involvement in IT policy since 2000 has perhaps been inadequate for WIDE Project’s purposes. At least, that’s the feeling I get. I am, or have been, involved in initiatives such as the IETF, the IAB, the IAHC (Internet Ad-Hoc Committee)—a collaboration with WIPO—and the process of setting up ICANN, and to be honest, I really was the “lone traveler” from WIDE over the first 10 years. Yet gradually my colleagues at WIDE began to show some interest. Junichiro Hagino (also affectionately known as Itojun), who was a great contributor to the standardization and popularization of IPv6, was always consulting me about the broader rollout of IPv6 and how it would contribute to society at large. Suguru Yamaguchi, who took on cybersecurity issues from within the government, carved out a role as a central figure in Cabinet policy directly connected with Japan’s Digital Agency, which is slated to launch this year.

Japan’s digital policies have undergone a huge transformation over the course of 20 years. No longer am I the lone traveler. Many of WIDE Project’s central figures are now working at the core of planning efforts. The pursuit of a new digital society is a major role and responsibility for WIDE Project in 2021.

The international research & education network landscape surrounding WIDE saw huge advances in 2020, with the NSF’s renewal of TransPAC, for instance, and the launch of GOREX, a new Pacific Internet exchange in Guam. Against this backdrop, the ARENA-PAC project, which WIDE Project took the helm of in 2020, will represent a completely new development in the research & education networks WIDE has so far been involved with.

On a more personal note, I retired from Keio University’s SFC project (i.e., Faculty of Environment and Information Studies) in March 2020 after a 30-year run. The challenges taken on at SFC also constitute a product of WIDE Project research. I am sincerely grateful for your understanding and support of our activities through SFC as well as WIDE Project. Keio University has granted me an all-Keio distinguished professorship. Looking to the future in 2021 and beyond, I hope to continue working with everyone involved in WIDE Project as we build the future of our world.

Jun Murai
WIDE Project Founder
March 2021