The other day I wrote about how prison releases are helping to keep the cassette alive. Now I’ve stumbled on another reason for the format’s inexplicable longevity: Japan.
The country–home of gadgets, bullet trains, robots and all sorts of electronic trickery–is mired in the past in certain segments of its society. Offices still use fax machines. Big corporations still run 10 year-old software. And if you walk into any corner store, you can buy a big pack of blank cassettes.
The BBC has this fascinating story of how despite its international reputation as an innovative company, much of Japan is extremely conservative when it comes to digital innovation.
“Japanese companies generally lag foreign companies by roughly five-to-10 years in adoption of modern IT practices, particularly those specific to the software industry,” says Patrick McKenzie, boss of Starfighter, a software company with operations in Tokyo and Chicago.
“The pace of development is glacial.”
It’s a curiosity for any observer of a country that developed the world’s first contactless payments system; the Bullet train; and the Sony Walkman.
You can pay for things with your phone in Japan, but nobody really uses their e-wallets here; ditto for Skype in the office, or other now-ubiquitous cloud storage tools, such as Dropbox.
Yet Japan has some of the best internet infrastructure in the world.
Yoji Otokozawa, president of Tokyo-based IT consultants Interarrows, says Japan Inc. is poor in digital literacy because small businesses, not multinationals, rule the country.
“The hub of the matter is that you have to understand how SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] dominate the Japanese business landscape,” he says.
SMEs account for 99.7% of Japan’s 4.2 million companies, according to Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. So the world’s third biggest economy is driven by minor establishments, not the giants everybody knows outside of Japan.