Japan America Society Hosts Panel on the Future of Technology in the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Japan-America Society of Dallas/Fort Worth (JASDFW) hosted a Zoom panel on June 4 to discuss how Japanese and American technology firms have addressed the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly emphasizing how they have adapted to meet society’s needs.

Moderated by Grant Ogata, the American first Vice President and President-elect of JASDFW, the “How Technology Companies in the U.S. and Japan are Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis” panel featured four technology experts: Blair Bakr, Vice President, Global Real Estate and Facilities, Security, Hitachi Vantara; Mariko Misumi, Channel Account Manager for Cisco Meraki, Cisco Systems GK; Takamitsu Ono, Director of Customer Support & Services in Japan, Synchronoss; and Tsuyoshi Ueshima, Deputy Head of the Global Photonics System Business Unit, Fujitsu, and Senior Vice President of Development, Fujitsu Network Communications, Inc.

The panelists said that the pandemic has created new challenges for the technology industry, especially in regard to supply chain disruptions, and suggested that firms combat this by promoting innovation. To do this, they advised firms to use new technology, such as software-defined networks (SDNs) and network automation, to ensure that their existing products are flexible enough to adapt to health safety measures like social distancing.

For example, Mitsumi, who specializes in IT, networking and cybersecurity solutions, said that Cisco Systems allows IT professionals to install and manage networking gears remotely, even from home. Bakr mentioned the importance of products like thermal cameras with LIDAR technology, which can significantly help in promoting social distancing.

The panelists also discussed how the pandemic has affected Japanese and American business culture. Unlike the U.S., many of Japan’s businesses are concentrated in two locations: Tokyo and Osaka. Since businesses are so close together, the panelists said that Japanese business leaders are accustomed to hosting in-person conferences, causing many to believe that face-to-face connections yield better results. However, many Japanese businesses have shifted to hosting virtual conferences in response to the pandemic. As they grapple with this transition, Mitsumi said that video conferences have been especially successful since they allow participants to still see each other’s facial expressions and hand gestures.

However, as meetings shift to a virtual format, Japanese businesses are struggling with two key issues: bandwidth and security. In terms of bandwidth, the panelists said that many Japanese people experience network congestion problems because they live in apartment buildings where all tenants share a single internet line. Further, the panelists said that Japan has strict information security protection policies that make it difficult for people to virtually share content with one another.

Bakr also emphasized that, in a virtual workplace, it is difficult to ensure that one’s colleagues are giving their undivided attention to a project as they would in an office environment. Additionally, the panelists noted that some features of video conference platforms, such as distracting backgrounds, can reduce productivity.

The panelists concluded by reminding the audience that Japan and the U.S. are not the only two nations affected by COVID-19; almost the entire world is adapting to the pandemic. They, therefore, stressed that the pandemic requires a global solution, saying that international leaders must integrate new technology and improve global communication if they want to overcome the pandemic. Bakr particularly said that global leaders must continue to promote innovation because it is too early to judge if they have successfully changed their habits and technologies.

JASDFW is a partner of the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia (JASGP), which has used art, business and culture to promote understanding and collaboration between Japan and Philadelphia for over 30 years. This year, JASGP is celebrating JapanPhilly2020, a yearlong program spotlighting the centuries-long friendship between Japan and Philadelphia. Although many of their originally planned events have been postponed due to the pandemic, Philadelphians can still celebrate by visiting the Shofuso House’s gardens when they reopen on June 24 and taking part in virtual events, such as the panel hosted by JASDFW.

Article written by Honami Adachi on behalf of Global Philadelphia Association