Co-creating the future through Society 5.0

Written by Sterling Content
April 12, 2019


Written by Sterling Content
April 12, 2019

Co-creating the future through Society 5.0

Members of the BCCJ and leadership platform SINCA (Sharing Innovative & Creative Action) have shared how Japan’s demographic problems can be solved through innovation and imagination, at a workshop hosted by the BCCJ.

Entitled “What is Your Ideal Society 5.0,” the event was led by global business strategy specialist and Professor Emeritus at Hitotsubashi University, Yoko Ishikura.

Guest speaker Naoko Ogawa, senior manager in the Industrial Technology Bureau at Keidanren, introduced Society 5.0: a framework for a world that uses technological advances and human creativity to overcome 21st century challenges and improve quality of life for all.

Produced in collaboration with government, academia and business, the Japanese Business Federation’s latest plan was released in November 2018. In March, it formed the backbone of discussions at the B20, the engagement group that proposes policy recommendations related to business for the G20.

Machine tech and human creativity 

According to Ogawa, Society 5.0 is the next stage in the evolution of mankind. First came the Hunting Society, followed by the Agrarian and Industrial Societies. Now we are living in the Information Society, but digitalisation heralds the development of a fifth society, also named Super Smart.

Its foundation is that the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and robotics can be utilised, together with imagination, to invent new ways to tackle complex global challenges such as demographic change, social disparity and environmental degradation.  

“Imagination and creativity are key; we have to utilise them as much as possible to use technology to make a better world,” said Ogawa, adding that Society 5.0 will not simply materialise. Rather, it has to be consciously created by individuals working together. 

Society 5.0 is “a society where anyone can create value anytime, anywhere, in security and harmony with nature, and free from various constraints that currently exist.” Fundamentally, it promises a society of problem solving, value creation, diversity, decentralisation, resilience, sustainability and environmental harmony.

Ogawa pointed out that Society 5.0 aims “to resolve social issues in harmony with nature” and introduced its nine key themes: cities & regions, energy, disaster prevention, healthcare, agriculture & food, logistics, manufacturing & services, finance and public services. It is therefore in alignment with the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

In healthcare, for example, Ogawa said Big Data about individuals’ bodies, activities and disease throughout their lives could help healthcare professionals understand illness and provide preventative steps and care better tailored to individuals. What is more, people will be able to use and manage their own life-stage data by themselves. 

In logistics, meanwhile, Big Data will realise the optimisation of supply chains, from procurement and production to transportation and sales, while autonomous driving, drones and robotics will enable more work to be automated.

Dejima Unit for corporations, start-ups

Across the nine themes, the Super Smart Society promises to address some of the most pressing issues facing Japan, including rural depopulation, an ageing society, food security, provision of green energy, the future of small and medium-sized businesses and disaster management.

According to Ogawa, Society 5.0 is therefore “an action plan to unleash Japan’s potential,” but reforms are needed to make it a success.

One reform proposed by Keidanren is the Dejima Strategy, whose name is taken from the tiny island of Dejima off the coast of Nagasaki that once acted as a bridge between Japan and the rest of the world during the country’s isolationist period. 

The strategy aims to bring corporations and start-ups together on projects to drive innovation via a “Dejima Unit,” a small body set up and operated independently of the corporation.

“Until now, most economic activity in Japan has been conducted by large and medium-sized companies, but large companies are slow to adapt to change and hardly produce innovation. These companies need to cooperate more with start-ups,” she said, adding that start-ups drive the innovation that Society 5.0 needs.

Through Dejima Units, Ogawa said corporations can avoid any regulations or conservative tendencies that prevent them from working with start-ups. The result would be the transformation of business, people and society.

Global, local partners

In closing, Ogawa said that Society 5.0 is “not something to come, but something to co-create” and requires the involvement of partners worldwide.

As the UK is a driver in the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, it has a keen interest in Society 5.0; 2019 marks the first year British and Japanese experts will work alongside each other on projects tackling the issues identified by Society 5.0.

Key elements of Society 5.0 also align with core BCCJ values. These include diversity & inclusion, digital & technological innovation and responsible business, which the BCCJ believes are vital for the sustainable growth of the Japanese and British economies.

Under these three pillars, the BCCJ has therefore created BCCJ 5.0, a plan to shape a progressive, human-centric society that faces modern challenges. It aims to deliver knowledgeable speakers and ground-breaking topics, to connect members to a future of innovation and inclusion.