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Japan’s 5 Challenges, Revealed Anew by ChatGPT
ChatGPT, released by OpenAI in the United States, has been widely reported in various media outlets in Japan. Many companies in the digital marketing industry in Japan are eagerly working on developing applications utilizing ChatGPT. Having been engaged in the business of importing cutting-edge digital marketing technology from overseas to Japan for nearly 7 years, I keenly feel the challenges that I have always sensed in this situation. In this blog, I will discuss the main five challenges from the perspectives of the government, support providers, and service providers.
Challenge 1: Dependency on foreign-made platforms
Platforms used worldwide, such as search engines, social media, and marketplaces, are all foreign-made, not domestically developed. As Japanese people have become so accustomed to this situation, which has lasted for over 20 years, it’s rare to find media coverage asking, “Why couldn’t Japan have been the pioneer in releasing AI generation tools like ChatGPT?” The social media platform TikTok, widely used around the world, was founded by a company called ByteDance in Beijing in 2012 and was released in 2016-2017. Again, unless we as a country ask ourselves why we couldn’t be the first to release social platforms like TikTok, we will continue to rely on businesses built on digital infrastructures created by other countries. This is a challenge that should be recognized by all stakeholders, as it is a challenge for the entire nation.
Note: Tokyo Institute of Technology and Fujitsu have actually started developing Japanese-focused AI generation technology in response to the emergence of ChatGPT. (Reference: English – https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14914749)
Challenge 2: Unwillingness to accept imperfection
So, what are the underlying causes behind the question, “Why couldn’t Japan have been the pioneer in releasing AI generation tools like ChatGPT?” It lies in the common stance of both the government and service providers (including consumers) of not accepting anything imperfect. ChatGPT often provides incorrect answers when there is a lack of necessary data or when it fails to select the correct data. However, there have been articles describing how to use ChatGPT while incorporating these erroneous responses. (Reference: Japanese – https://xtech.nikkei.com/atcl/nxt/column/18/02380/030600003/) For ChatGPT, it seems that this second challenge has not been fully recognized due to the extensive media coverage and popularity surrounding ChatGPT. There are countless excellent technologies for B2B (business-to-business) purposes that are not as widely discussed as ChatGPT and do not gain broad popularity among consumers. In Japan, there may be many developers capable of developing technologies that are just as good or even better, but due to the stance of not accepting imperfection by the government and service providers, many of these technologies fail to flourish and remain unknown. Like raising a child, all products start from imperfect versions and only through continuous input and output can they grow significantly. We need to recognize this fact.
Challenge 3: Rare acceptance for English UI
In January of this year, I wrote a blog post titled “Marketing Technology SOPHOLA Cannot Bring to Japan’s Market Due to a Lack of Our Capability.” At that time, I mentioned the need to develop natural language processing programs in Japanese through collaboration with technology companies, which made us hesitant to introduce content generation AI technology as a company. However, most of the excellent foreign technologies come with English user interfaces. If ChatGPT were available only in English, it wouldn’t have become as popular in Japan, would it? On the other hand, I personally know various tech partners, business owners, friends, and acquaintances from countries where English is not their first language, and they effectively utilize technologies, tools, and platforms from around the world in English. Which side has higher competitiveness between individuals and companies? Personally, I feel that the side with more choices is the one. Since this is also a national issue, it should be a matter of concern for all stakeholders, shouldn’t it?
Challenge 4: Precedent-oriented thinking
Relying on precedents by asking, “Are there any case studies?” significantly delays the development of new technologies. For example, Israel, a country where unprecedented technologies for both toC and toB are born one after another. Why do they emerge? One reason is that they have a vision as a country to develop unique and unprecedented technologies that are beneficial to both the world and their own national power, and there is consensus among the support providers who develop such technologies and the users who utilize them. This is also a common challenge observed between the government and user companies.
Challenge 5: Closed products
I mentioned at the beginning that various companies are enthusiastically working on developing applications utilizing ChatGPT. The reason this is possible is because OpenAI provides ChatGPT through an open API. API stands for Application Programming Interface, which refers to a mechanism for calling and utilizing the functions and related data of an application from other applications. When this is made available to other companies, it’s called an “open API.” By doing this, OpenAI can enjoy various benefits, and one of them is “diversification of services.” Instead of creating ChatGPT × Application A, × Application B, and so on by themselves, other companies can do it for them. As a result, various services utilizing ChatGPT are created.
Although I won’t mention specific company names, there are many major companies in Japan that can undertake initiatives through such open APIs. However, surprisingly, many companies are not actively pursuing them. Personally, I feel that the lack of progress in service diversification and competitiveness improvement is due to this closed-minded stance.
What I have felt for the past seven years has been strongly realized with the advent of ChatGPT, and I have come to appreciate the significance of our past individual and company efforts. It may still be a drop in the ocean, but I hope to continue steadily making progress in what we can do!
Masaki “Mark” Iino
Founder & CEO