Japan is pushing technology on its citizens. The government wants them to acquire digital IDs or else lose access to public health insurance. There’s one problem: The public won’t sign up.
Japan’s digital ID plan, called “My Number,” began in 2016. Every citizen receives a 12-digit number, similar to how U.S. Social Security works. Officials promoted My Number as boosting efficiency and improving convenience.
The plan never caught on. Many Japanese conduct business in person, with cash. Many offices still insist upon paper forms.
Only about half of the Japanese population even have a My Number, according to government sources.
But Japan’s leadership wants all citizens to apply for My Number cards. The plastic cards contain microchips and photos. They’ll be linked to drivers’ licenses and health insurance plans. Current health cards lack photos and will be discontinued in 2024. After that, everyone will need to use My Number cards.
Japanese citizens are balking. Many worry their information could be misused or stolen. Some view My Number as government overreach or a violation of privacy rights. More than 100,000 Japanese signed an online petition demanding to keep the current health cards.
Saeko Fujimori works with music copyrights. She’s supposed to obtain My Number information from people she deals with. But many won’t give it out.
“There is a microchip in it, and that means there could be fraud,” says Fujimori. She has a My Number but doesn’t intend to get the card.
Labor union official Koichi Kurosawa says people would be happier with digitization if it made their work easier and quicker. But at many Japanese workplaces, the opposite is happening.
“People feel this is about allocating numbers to people the way teams have numbers on their uniforms,” Kurosawa says. “They are worried it will lead to tighter surveillance.”
He believes fear of being watched is the reason people are saying “no” to My Number.
Researcher Yojiro Maeda thinks digitization is needed. He sees My Number as a step in the right direction. “You just have to do it,” he says.
The government may need to do something drastic for people to accept the digital movement, suggests Tokyo professor Hidenori Watanave. “There are too many people worried their jobs are going to disappear,” he suggests. “These people see digitization as a negation of their past work.”
Technology expert Nobi Hayashi says the government needs to explain the reasoning behind the My Number plan. “They don’t show a bigger picture,” he says, “or they don’t have one.”
Why? People’s desire to feel like more than a number is based in the innate dignity given by the Creator. What a blessing that He has redeemed His people and called them by name—not just by a number! (Isaiah 43:1)
Actions have consequences. View a bubble map that shows how one event (such as requiring digital IDs) can lead to another.