Wishing for a more DX-advanced Japan.

Wishing for a more DX-advanced Japan.

Hi, I’m Jim and I’m one of the co-founders of SignTime. I’ve lived digitally for a long time–had a modem when I was a kid, worked in the Internet and then went on to do more work in Internet infrastructure space. I read “Being Digital” back when that was the phrase rather than “Software is Eating the World”. 

 I’ve lived in Japan for more than half my life, and while there are things I’m not a huge fan of (for example, writing kanji by hand–I need 変換)and there are things I love (梅しそ anything) I am always surprised by the rules that come with dealing with banks in Japan. The consumer banking industry is in a mix of government regulation and business process imposed galapagos islands that impede digital transformation in the name of “preventing fraud”.

 I tweeted not to long ago about how Japanese banks were talking about a “digital passbook” and how no one in the US under 50 would even understand what that is, as passbooks disappeared about 30 years ago from US banking.

 So that is certainly one relatively antiquated experience that still exists in Japan…and, in some ways, I prefer the passbook to the “monthly statement”. It makes it easy to look back at all of your transactions without getting 10s of sheets of paper. 

 And, in a typical Japanese fashion, the 改善 which has gone into ATMs to support passbooks is amazing–these machines can turn pages and issue new passbooks, which is a far cry from the ATMs that used to shut down at 1900 each evening when I first arrived. 

Passbooks, while archaic, don’t really prevent digital transformation.

 Faxes, however, do. 

 Some of the key patents for the fax date back to the 1840s, so the concept of sending an image to someone else is not new. 

After all, a telegraph worked by converting analog communications across a metal line through a simple cipher. You could do the same with an image, assuming creative enough ciphers. None of those items, though, were digital. 

In the modern world, the fax takes a digital item, converts it to an image, sends it across an analog transmission mechanism (fax and VOIP hate each other, as I found out at PBXL) and then is converted from analog to paper or, if somewhat eco-conscious, an image. 

 Using a fax is the definition of analog, not digital transformation. Unfortunately, though, under current legal precedent, analog transformation has been shown to hold up in court, while digital transformation is less clear.

 I really, really hope that we end up with a more digital Japan, one in which an online banking transaction can be corrected online, rather than by fax or a trip to the bank.

 A Japan where individual convenience has a higher priority than “Please come to our office while you should be at work” and where printing out paper and hankoing it doesn’t feel more “real”. 

Here are some benefits of digital transformation: 20 Digital Transformation Benefits

Enough DX thoughts for now.

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