Cloud communication connects less accessible communities in Hokkaido to e-government services
E-government services boomed during the pandemic where citizens were required to interact with State administration on vaccination records and appointments. Future government-citizen interactions are expected to continually transform digitally. As a result, there is an urgent need to bridge the digital divide in underserved communities. This is especially true in nations with fast aging populations such as Japan.
To combat this, the Hokkaido Information and Communication Infrastructure Utilization Promotion Council effectively used cloud communication to provide a timely and comprehensive range of services to its less accessible inhabitants.
CIO World Asia spoke with Damien Delard, Vice President of APAC Channels, Head of Sales from Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE) and Masashige Sakai, General Manager from KYOCERA Mirai Envision Co., Ltd. (KCME) to find out more about the initiative.
What challenges were the government in Hokkaido facing with their existing communication solutions?
Damien Delard: In Hokkaido, the Information and Communication Infrastructure Utilisation Promotion Council is responsible for communications with the residents of 11 major towns and villages. to ensure the safety, social integration, and convenience of elderly residents within the communities.
The need for smoother, faster and more adaptable communication was evident during the pandemic. Relaying essential information and last-minute adjustments to policies was critical in connecting with rural and elderly residents. The government of Hokkaido thus needed resilient and secure communication solutions that could be rapidly deployed to keep communities connected and efficiently communicate with rural citizens.
The council also saw an opportunity to expand their services and provide enhanced offerings such as telemedicine, virtual learning, and on-demand transportation. These services would improve safety, reduce costs, and revitalise the local community.
Why was it important to address these challenges in Japan’s context?
Masashige Sakai: Japan’s declining birth rate and aging population present major social challenges. It is estimated that by 2060, 38 percent of the population in Japan will be aged 65 years and older. Hokkaido’s elderly population also rose from 18.9% to 32.6% within two decades, representing an annual average growth rate of 2.9%.
This rapidly aging population means the timely delivery of good care is necessary to maintain their health and mental well-being. Furthermore, Japan is the most earthquake-prone country in the world, and it must deal with major natural disruptions and subsequent damage within communities. With a large land surface area and the existence of rural and remote towns, it is paramount that the Information and Communication Infrastructure Utilisation Promotion Council adopted an adaptable communication, alert, and notification system to easily connect and provide administrative services to rural Hokkaido residents for the long-term.
How did ALE and KCME’s partnership support the government’s objectives in reaching less accessible communities and delivering essential services?
Masashige Sakai: KCME has vast experience in managing advanced application services and complex integrations. KCME led the project to implement a cloud-based infrastructure to enable reliable and secure communications and application services.
Through leveraging the Alcatel-Lucent OmniPCX Enterprise Communication Server, we were able to provide high-performance voice communications that seamlessly integrated communications, collaboration, and notification capabilities into citizens’ apps. The open flexible architecture also made integration with services, existing apps, and systems simple and easy. Additionally, ALE’s robust security protocols from the core to the edge ensured citizens’ confidence in the safety of the technology.
Damien Delard: Together with KCME, we successfully delivered services encompassing intuitive audio and video communications, audio or visual messages, and alert notifications issued by administration. This also enabled day-to-day consultations and timely emergency services from the local emergency medical and city administration.
ALE also provided customised Alcatel-Lucent 8088 Smart IP Terminals. These were equipped in elderly resident homes for high-quality multimedia communications and application services. The device had a familiar phone-centric design, a high-quality comfort handset and number pad for quick calling, which made user adoption amongst elderly residents quick and easy.
Furthermore, ALE’s cloud communication solution provides a unified platform for residents to access information from a variety of departments such as healthcare, weather, disaster alert, police, and transportation. These can all be accessed via a single, easy-to-operate and user-friendly screen that reduced barriers to adoption.
What benefits has the government and communities in Hokkaido seen since adopting ALE’s cloud communication solutions?
Damien Delard: Having a cloud-based communication environment removes risks of down-time and maintenance, thus optimising operational costs. In addition, elderly residents who have difficulty commuting by public transport benefit from services such as an on-demand shuttle services, improving their mobility. There is also increased operational efficiency, as management and maintenance services can be done remotely without travelling physically to rural locations.
Masashige Sakai: We’re confident that this technology will transform the lives of the communities. The benefits are varied, from addressing disaster prevention, education, medical care, and transportation, to enabling the elderly to connect with authorities, their families, and friends through streamlined communications.
There are planned trials from hereon to deliver other essential services involving healthcare with teleconsultation, e-learning, and on-demand transportation which would ease the elderly citizens’ day-to-day life and increase their quality of living. We’re proud to be able to support the Hokkaido Municipality with creating an advanced and connected digital community for its citizens.
Having a cloud-based communication environment removes risks of down-time and maintenance, thus optimising operational costs. In addition, elderly residents who have difficulty commuting by public transport benefit from services such as an on-demand shuttle services, improving their mobility.Damien Delard, Vice President of APAC Channels, Head of Sales from Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE)
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of timely communication and delivery of services to all citizens. This case study of Hokkaido does well in exemplifying a successful attempt in bridging the digital divide between urban and rural populations.