Japan as a Co-creation Partner
- The Role and Challenges in a Digital Age -

With the spread of information devices in emerging and developing nations, the economies and societies of these nations are rapidly becoming digitalized. Their governments are also embarking on new development initiatives, and the expectations on foreign companies are changing dramatically. What role can the Japanese government and Japanese companies play against this background? In this report, I first summarize the main trends in the digitalization of emerging countries since 2020, following which I focus on the role of Japan as co-creation partner in the latter half of the report. In particular, I will examine five channels of economic involvement: (1) Participation in development initiatives; (2) Research and development; (3) Market development; (4) Investment in local companies and strategic alliances; and (5) Return of investment to Japan.

Japanese companies are beginning to invest in start-up companies in emerging and developing nations and making efforts to create local businesses. In particular, it is suggested that aspects of “Japan as a forerunner of issues facing advanced nations,” such as problems of nursing care and medical care, may become more salient in the age of digitalization. At the same time, however, taking Southeast Asia and India as examples, there are concerns that Japan's efforts may not be sufficient to meet rapidly expanding needs, and that the nation’s presence may decline*.

* This paper is based on the discussion in Chapter 6 of Dejitaru-ka suru shinkoukoku - senshinkoku wo koeru ka, kanshi shakai no tourai ka (“The Digital Emerging Countries: Transcending the Advanced Nations or the Advent of the Surveillance Society?”; in Japanese) (Chuko Shinsho, 2020), and is a substantially expanded version of “The New Phase of Digitalization in Emerging Markets: Can Japan be a Co-Creation Partner?” which the author contributed to the September 25, 2021 issue of Shukan Toyo Keizai (published in Japanese). I would like to thank Ms. Kaori Iwasaki of the Japan Research Institute for providing data on collaboration projects being conducted by Japanese companies. I would also like to thank Keiichiro Oizumi (Asia University), Kota Takaguchi (KINBRICKS NOW), and Ririna Yamamoto (Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO)) for their comments on the draft of this report.

This is a translation of a paper originally published in Japanese in December, 2021.

Asei Ito
Adjunct Senior Fellow, NIRA / Associate Professor, Institute of Social Science, The University of Tokyo.