Japan’s newly appointed cybersecurity minister Yoshitaka Sakurada has caused outcry in Japan upon revealing that he has never used a computer in his professional life. The embarrassing admission was first reported by Kyodo News on Nov 15 and generated a mixture of incredulity and bemusement, as well as a whole lot of facepalm emojis, online.
“Since I was 25 years old and independent I have instructed my staff and secretaries. I have never used a computer,” the newly appointed minister admitted last Wednesday at a parliament meeting.
Sakurada took up his post just last month in a cabinet reshuffle after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s re-election. One of his responsibilities includes cyber defense for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Politician Masato Imai from the opposition Democratic Party was shocked to hear this, stating, “I find it unbelievable that someone who is responsible for cyber-security measures has never used a computer at work.” However, Sakurada reassured the assembly that other officials in his department had the necessary knowledge and experience.
Takeshi Saiki of the Democratic Party of the People still had concerns, and followed up by asking Sakurada whether USBs are being used at Japan’s nuclear plants — a major concern following a virus being introduced to an Iranian nuclear plant via USB. Their conversation went as follows:
Saiki: “Do Japan’s nuclear power plants have USB jacks?”
Sakurada: “We don’t use them in general.”
Saiki: “I’m asking whether the plants have them or not.”
Sakurada: “We don’t allow their use.”
Saiki: “Do you know what USBs are?”
Sakurada: “If we do have them, we will will take every measure necessary.”
Sakurada went on to say: “I think you plug USBs into a hole or something, but I don’t know the details so I’ll let a specialist answer that question.”
Online reactions to Sakurada’s lack of computing knowledge in Japan ranged from amusement to deep concern:
“This is a comedy goldmine.”
“No seriously, leave this up to some young person who actually knows and grasps these things.”
“With the Tokyo Olympics coming up, isn’t there a higher risk of us getting attacked? Is this okay?”
“At least choose someone who can use a computer. All this guy is good for is signing off on legislation.”
“Even kindergarteners know more than this guy.”
Commentators overseas joked that Sakurada’s method could actually be considered foolproof:
“Isn’t that the best way to be cybersecure?”
While others sympathised with his plight:
“Oh man…I feel him. I’ve been at my job for the last 5 years and have no idea what I’m doing.”
While some Japanese have commented that a younger person may be more tech-savvy and suited for such a role, there’s a real disconnect between the younger generation and politics in Japan. Just two years ago the voting age was reduced from 20 to 18, and yet young Japanese are the least likely age group to vote in elections, while around 30% of voters are 65 or older. With the upcoming Olympic Games and other international events like the Rugby World Cup, let’s hope someone more qualified steps up to the plate soon.
On Friday, Sakurada attempted to clarify his comments, according to Reuters.
“Referring to the comment I made on 14 November, I do not use computers at home on a daily basis, but at the office, I obviously use it for various work,” he said.
In spite of the public outcry, Sakurada is still cybersecurity minister and is presumably trying to figure out exactly what a USB is and where he can stick it. Maybe one of his staff can help him understand this pretty simple concept. I hear they should have the “relevant knowledge.”
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