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Message from the Chairman

Message from the Chairman

On the occasion of the New Year 2021, I would like to offer my greetings and good wishes to all of you.

The year 2020 turned out to be quite a harsh (or turbulent or tough) year indeed, as COVID-19, with its epicenter in Wuhan, China, engulfed (or spread throughout) the whole world. While the coronavirus-indued crisis has posed a number of new problems, it has also revealed and compounded a range of issues that had long existed at home and around the world even before the outbreak. We are now made to realize that we have no time to waste in responding to such issues.

Based on this recognition, I do expect that 2021 will be the year to envision what Japan should look like when the coronavirus crisis is over. Also, this year is the time when we ought to embark upon realizing this vision toward a bright future. In this regard, although many issues are upon us, I would like to point out two challenges to be dealt with, in particular.

The first challenge is to address digitalization, including the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and big data. As often reported by the mass media, Japan’s response to the coronavirus has exposed (or shed light on or highlighted) how backward the country is in terms of digitalization. Much confusion over the government’s distribution of cash handouts as a coronavirus measure is the case in point. This is just one of many examples of Japan’s clumsy response to the outbreak due to its slow shift to digitalization.

While responding to Japan’s rapidly declining birthrate and aging of society, we need to be smarter about advancing digitalization -- a process of optimal human-technology interface -- in every aspect of social activities, such as business, public administration, and education, so that we will be able to sustain effectively and efficiently our society where people can enjoy the richness of life with a peace of mind.  

We should not attempt to merely digitalize the conventional ways of doing things as is. Rather, what we need to do is to identify specific goals to be achieved and to thoroughly overhaul such methods on an as needed basis when it comes to promoting digitalization. For this to happen, it is important to build a system that will enable all the parties concerned to exchange their wisdom, knowledge, and experiences and keep on improving the system.

The second challenge for Japan is to globalize itself further.  Although we tend to look backward and feel negative (or pessimistic) amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we must make further efforts toward globalization in order to keep reinvigorating Japan. Against the backdrop of the rapidly declining birthrate and aging of society, Japan needs to actively accept foreign talents, including highly-skilled professionals. This will not only help mitigate the country’s labor shortage but also help enhance creativity and vibrancy through exchanges and collaborations among people of diverse backgrounds, which will in turn contribute greatly to further development of Japan’s economy and society.  

Needless to say, it is essential to provide support to those foreign people living in Japan who face difficulty due to the pandemic, but it is equally important to improve and expand the framework for accepting talented people from overseas, as we look ahead into Japan’s future.   

Since fiscal 2019, the Toyota Foundation has launched a pair of specific subjects focused upon these two challenges, namely, “Co-creating New Society with Advanced Technologies,” and “Migrants and Japanese Society.” The first subject is designed to make grants to research projects concerning cutting-edge digital technology, while the second subject provides grants to such initiatives as creating an environment that allows foreign talents to fully demonstrate their abilities. While carrying on with these special subject programs, I hope that we will contribute, however small that may be, to developing the social framework of a post-COVID-19 Japan by widely disseminating and sharing the results of our grant programs.

In 2021, too, we, at the Toyota Foundation, are committed to making utmost efforts to improve our activities including grant-making. Lastly, I would like to ask for continued support and encouragement from all of you.

Thank you.

January, 2021
Nobuyori Kodaira
Chairman
The Toyota Foundation (Public Interest Incorporated Foundation)

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