Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida apologized for problems with new national ID cards but said he wouldn’t necessarily change plans to require them for access to health care from autumn next year.
(Bloomberg) — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida apologized for problems with new national ID cards but said he wouldn’t necessarily change plans to require them for access to health care from autumn next year.
Kishida told reporters Friday the cards are essential for the digital modernization of the country after receiving a report on a government review of the system, which has faced problems including users finding their cards linked to data about unrelated individuals.
Mistrust in the introduction of what are called “My Number” cards is among the factors that has pushed Kishida’s public approval in some polls to about its lowest since he took office almost two years ago.
A report on the cards will be published next Tuesday. Kishida said he would work to restore public trust over what he said was an essential step in making services more efficient.
“We take the voices of the public and those working in the field seriously,” Kishida said. “Dispelling the worries of the people is the top priority.”
The premier said the government would offer a health-care eligibility certificate for those who don’t have the My Number card, seeing it as a step toward a merger into one digital system.
“What Japan is aiming for is to become the world’s most advanced, smart government,” he said. “To that end, we must work on digital infrastructure and government systems.”
While Kishida needn’t hold a general election until 2025, his flagging popularity will make it harder to corral his long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party to deal with delicate issues like how to fund a massive hike in defense spending.
The data breaches have led to concern that the cards could be vulnerable to identity theft or abuse, putting at risk users’ access to state benefits and sensitive information such as medical records.
A survey by the Yomiuri newspaper and broadcaster NNN between July 21-23 found approval for Kishida’s cabinet had sagged to 35%, the weakest since he won election in October 2021.
The poll showed 58% of respondents were against the use of the ID card for health-care access. Almost 80% said they didn’t believe the government review would resolve the problems with the system.
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