TOKYO: Japan’s largest telecommunications company gets 7.3 billion yen – about $ 67 million – in taxpayer money to design mobile tracking software to curb the spread of coronavirus infections during Tokyo Olympics.
There is a catch: few Olympic fans from overseas will be around to use it.
The organizers of the Tokyo Olympics and the CIO on Saturday announced a ban on overseas fans from attending the games, which will open on July 23.
NTT Communications Corp., a group company of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. and a national sponsor of the Tokyo Games, heads the consortium that is developing the application in several languages, which is scheduled for release in June.
National sponsors have contributed a record $ 3.5 billion to the local organizing committee, a total about three times the size of any previous one. Olympic Games. The contributions were led by a giant marketing company Dentsu Inc., the official marketing partner of the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Like other skeptics, the opposition lawmaker Kanako Otsuji said the app is a waste of money.
“When there are probably no spectators, is it time to design an app for fans? The Japanese government has repeatedly failed in digital innovation, but is it going to be successful with this new app? She said on her YouTube channel last month.
Users need to download the app to their cell phones so that their whereabouts can be monitored with satellite technology.
In theory, it tracks infections. But everything must be done in good faith and is only effective if people use it honestly and diligently to record their health and warn others of epidemics.
The NTT app costs nearly 20 times more than a previous troubled tracking app called Cocoa for “COVID-19 Contact Confirming Application,” which was offered free to the Japanese public last year.
Japan is now banning people from entering the country due to the coronavirus pandemic, except for some essential travel and returning citizens.
NTT Communications declined to comment, referring the questions to the government.
Tokyo-based NTT, founded in 1952, boasts of having close ties to the Japanese government. He is now embroiled in a sprawling corruption scandal centered on the entertainment lavished on the ministry bureaucrats who oversee telecommunications.
Tokyo is officially spending $ 15.4 billion preparing for the Olympics, but several government audits have suggested it is at least $ 25 billion. Everything but $ 6.7 billion is public money.
As the pandemic has increased costs, there will be few tourists to replenish local coffers.
In 2019, the year before the pandemic began, Japan raised a record 4.8 trillion yen ($ 44 billion) from nearly 31.9 million tourists from overseas, mostly from China. and South Korea.
In contrast, international travelers to Japan last year, including foreign residents and families of Japanese, fell to 4.1 million people, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization. No money figure was available. Domestic tourism also fell to about half of the levels of the previous year.
Japan has attributed around 9,000 deaths to COVID-19 but has barely started rolling out vaccines.
Marina Nakano, spokesperson for the Japan Cultural Expo, a government-backed program set up specifically to boost tourism during the Tokyo Olympics, acknowledged that cultural events related to the upcoming Games are still undecided.
Events, scheduled for last year, have been canceled, postponed or put online.
Nakano hopes that once things get back to normal, tourism may return and his efforts to promote Japanese culture will bear fruit in the long run.
“The plans all had to be drastically changed,” she said.