This doesn’t look like it’s going to go well.

While Japan’s tech firms have earned a reputation for developing high-spec wonders, in many ways the country clings doggedly to old-fashioned ways of doing things (which is how it ended up as a country that’s both built a full-size moving Gundam mecha and still often requires documents to be submitted by fax). It looks like the wheels of change may be starting to turn, though.

Minister of Administrative Reform Taro Kono recently called on the government to transition away from using paper documents, and now the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has established a Digitalization Promotion Division, with the goal of “promoting the swift and thorough digitalization of the fields of education, science and technology, athletics, and culture.” To prove how committed they are to the “swift” part of their mission, on September 25 the team held its first meeting, as shown in this commemorative photo shared through the MEXT Twitter account.

The photo shows more than two dozen men and women ready to get this digital reformation started. But you know what it doesn’t show? A single laptop, tablet, or any other piece of personal IT equipment. Every member of the Digitalization Promotion Division does, however, appear to have no fewer than two stacks of paper in front of them.

The irony wasn’t lost on Japanese Twitter users, who reacted to MEXT’s self-assured announcement with a shower of snark:

“Maybe the best they could do was using a digital camera to take the picture?”
“I bet they used a film camera, had the prints developed, and then scanned the physical photograph in order to send the tweet.”
“It must be really hard to be in charge of promoting digitalization for the whole country when you don’t even know how to do it for yourself.”
“It’s going to take years and years and years for them to get their job done.”
“It’s like something out of The Godfather. You can almost hear them saying ‘Starting to use tablets is like starting to sell drugs. We have to be very careful in how we proceed.’”

One commenter pointed out that if you look on the right edge of the photo, you’ll at least spot a LAN cable…but it’s just lying there on the floor, not plugged into anything.

▼ That’s not just poor use of technology, it’s poor cleaning too.

Granted, not every meeting requires all participants to be actively using computers during the discussion, and for personal note-taking, some people still feel nothing beats the speed and simplicity of jotting things down with pen and paper. But if you’re going to go to the trouble of taking a picture specifically to brag about how hard your brand-new Digitalization Promotion Division is working, shouldn’t you have at least one person with a laptop on their desk, even if it’s just for appearances’ sake? For that matter, it’s strange that while even elementary school-age students across Japan have adjusted to online video classes, MEXT still felt the need to gather nearly 30 people in a room in order to talk with each other.

One tongue-in-cheek optimist commenter tried to give MEXT the benefit of the doubt, though, saying:

“Maybe this is like those diet ads, and they posted this as the ‘before’ picture.”

Maybe he’s right, and in a few months’ time, when the “after” photo comes out, everyone will look back on this tweet and marvel at how much things have improved thanks to the Digitalization Promotion Division’s hard work. For the time being, though, it’s a darkly comedic snapshot of Japan’s “now.”

Source: Twitter/@mextjapan via Hachima Kiko, MEXT
Top image: Pakutaso
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!