Japan's digital technology minister is waging a war on floppy disks

Japan’s digital minister, who vowed to rid the bureaucracy of outdated tools from the hanko brand to the fax machine, has now declared “war” on a technology many haven’t seen in decades – the floppy disk.

The hand-sized, square-shaped data storage device, along with similar devices, including a compact disc or even the lesser-known minidisc, are still needed for about 1,900 government procedures and should be released, Digital Minister Taro Kono wrote in a post on Twitter on Wednesday.

“We will review these practices quickly,” Kono told a news conference on Tuesday, who added that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida had offered his full support. “Where can one even buy a floppy disk these days?”

Japan isn’t the only nation struggling to phase out outdated technology — the US Department of Defense announced as recently as 2019 that it had ended the use of floppy disks, first developed in the 1960s, in system to control its nuclear arsenal. Sony Group Corp. stopped making the drives in 2011, and many young people would struggle to describe how to use one or even identify it in the modern workplace.

Read more: The world has an e-waste problem

Legal obstacles make it difficult to adopt advanced technologies such as cloud storage for wider use within the bureaucracy, according to presentation by the government’s digital task force on Tuesday. The group will review the regulations and plans to announce ways to improve them by the end of the year.

Kono, one of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s most prominent politicians who is often cited by voters as a contender for prime minister, is an outspoken critic of bureaucratic inefficiency due to archaic practices, most notably the fax machine and hanko, a unique , a carved red seal that remains necessary for signing official documents such as a marriage certificate. He tried to limit the use of both when he was minister of administrative reform between 2020 and 2021, but both are still widely used.

“I’m looking to get rid of the fax machine and I still plan to,” he joked at his press conference Tuesday.

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