Message from IPSJ President

Information Processing Technologies to Drive a Bright Future

  -- Upon assuming the Office of President --

  Tatsuo Tomita
Tatsuo Tomita
(President, Information Processing Society of Japan / 
Chairman, Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd.)
(from "IPSJ Magazine" Vol. 56, No. 7, pp.622-623 (2015))

Today, society is at a major crossroads: there is a strong calling for industries, as well as research and educational institutions, to transform themselves. Under former President Kitsuregawa’s strong leadership, the Information Processing Society of Japan (IPSJ) has also been working to transform itself—medium- to long-term policies have been initiated, aimed at heightening the value of IPSJ and making it more useful to society, and a multitude of short-term measures have been undertaken to increase membership. Upon this occasion of my appointment as the 28th president of IPSJ as successor to former President Kitsuregawa, I recognize that it is my responsibility to ensure that we continue this process of transformation.

Our Surrounding Environment

With the rapid spread of information processing technologies, now nearly anyone can instantaneously access information from around the world via the Internet. The world has become smaller, and various societal problems that occur around the world can affect faraway places: we should not assume that such issues are isolated to others who are at distant locations. There is a desire for us to address these problems from a global perspective at all times, premised on the fact that we live in a world of diverse people and values. Changes to the earth’s environment—including the impact of our rapid development of human civilization—are also accelerating. At times, these changes can instigate major disasters that result in devastating disruptions to our lives.
Due to advances in information processing technologies, individuals can carry smartphones that enable them to stay connected with numerous others, while gaining prompt and early access to new information: on the other hand, some feel that this connectivity has robbed us of our time to think—giving rise to smartphone addicts, as well as such negative social phenomena as information overload, reputational damage, and heated controversy in social media and in the blogosphere.
Industries have used information processing technologies to gain competitiveness, by increasing efficiencies and reducing costs. With globalization of the competitive environment, I feel there is a further need to transform business by generating new value through information processing technology.
The roles of research institutions, universities and other types of education in relation to society have come into question: we are reaching a point where merely conventional approaches to research activities and education are no longer sufficient. There is a calling for research institutions and universities to pursue self-transformation with determination. In these ways, we are facing an environment that is calling on us to undertake these transformations with a sense of urgency. I believe it is essential that we sophisticate and further advance information processing technologies to take on a prominent role of resolving a multitude of societal problems, inclusive of issues attributable to the evolution of information processing technology itself.

Expectations for Information Processing Technologies

The world has become more connected through the Internet, and cloud computing enables easy access to computing power. Videos are now easily distributed due to advancements in imaging and communications technologies, and as so-called IoT (Internet of Things) technology progresses hereafter, it will likely enable even easier access to information on the environment, society, individuals, and things. Indeed, it is the advent of the era of Big Data.
Analyzing this massive data, generating value from it, and applying it to the real world should pave the way for a vivid and bright future. By deploying information processing technologies, primary sector industries—such as agriculture, fishing, and forestry industries—could be transformed into so-called sixth-sector industries, that for example encompass processing and services. This could enable rural revitalization, which—as observed in some regions—could for example potentially alleviate exoduses of populations from rural to urban areas: particularly in Japan, rural revitalization may possibly help slow declining birth rates, which some partially attribute to such urbanization. This is not just a fantasy pipe dream: rather, it is an envisioned future that can be actualized.
This vision cannot be achieved, however, if information processing technologies remain in their current state. It is mandatory that related academia deepens its pursuit of basic research, that system architects develop new frameworks, that knowledge from other fields—in particular the social sciences—is integrated, and that the public sector and industry validate large-scale systems. We cannot avoid facing and resolving difficult relevant challenges, such as expected security concerns and moral issues, or reaching a consensus among people with differing value systems.
Currently in Japan, there is a strong calling for growth strategies, and numerous industries are striving toward to the realization of innovation. Information processing technology has a vital role to play in achieving these objectives. In order to enable true growth strategies in Japan, it is critical that we resolve various societal issues: such as slowing Japan's population rate decline, accommodating an aging society, and providing secure social infrastructures—all for which information processing technologies should hold an essential role. In addition, rather than limiting ourselves just to Japan's societal issues, since Japan is a forerunner in facing many such issues, by taking Japan's initiatives and applying them to other global regions, we should seek to benefit people in other countries as well.

Issues We Must Address

Bearing in mind the aforementioned, aiming toward enhancing our appeal as an academic society, IJIS should focus on becoming more robustly dynamic across a medium- to long-term horizon. As our fiscal 2015 business plan illustrates, we will continue the fundamental reforms our Society has undertaken thus far, formulate medium- to long-term strategies, actualize ideas generated by young people, expand our membership system to encompass elementary/middle/high school students, promote various activities by research committees while offering their recommendations and insights to society, globalize our activities, and enrich our membership services. Although it may require some time, I feel the foundation for heightening the value of IPSJ is to acquire an impact factor for our technical journals, and grow the acceptance and publication of papers.

There is a limit to what short-term measures can accomplish: enhancing the appeal of our Society from a long-term perspective may actually be a shortcut to achieving our objectives. I myself have experienced this in the past, through my previous career experience as a former corporate business executive. In addition, in order for IPSJ to become more robust over the long term, we will also work on strengthening our finances as a stable foundation.

There exist concerns that students are distancing themselves from the field of information processing: I would like to eliminate this, by highlighting the attractiveness of ICT as a field of study with great potential to spread into a wide abundance of fields. Recently, some view information processing simply as a tool, and may interpret this as indicating that there are fewer new areas to research—however, this is not the case, as there still remain many unresolved issues with an unlimited range of unchartered territory to explore, as new areas of research. In fact, one might say that the field of information processing is now once again coming back into the limelight. There are multitudes of ways in which information processing technology must benefit people in a true sense. Whether as a field of study, or from a technological perspective, information processing technologies offer a treasure trove of topics to explore.

Furthermore, as aforementioned, rather than limiting information processing technology to the information processing industry, it is precisely by broadening its use—by incorporating it into larger cross-industry initiatives, involving individuals spanned across various industries who seek to leverage it for their industries’ transformations—that information processing technology can offer its true value in benefiting people and communities. For IPSJ as well, proactively interfacing with other academic societies is vital and essential, and I will make a conscious effort to make progress in this aspect. Free and unfettered discussions transcend fields of study, academia and industry, generations, and national boundaries: to enable such dynamic dialogue to be the norm, I will strive for IPSJ to offer such a forum and drive such interactive activities.

I sincerely request the kind support and cooperation of all my fellow Society members.
Apr.15, 2015