Body launched in Aizu to tackle local issues

Photo: People involved with a new organization bringing together industry, academia and government attend its inaugural ceremony.

A body bringing together industry, academia and government was officially set in motion in the Aizu inland region of Fukushima Prefecture on July 1 to help tackle challenging issues faced by local communities. The new organization, Aizu DX Nisshinkan, comprises representatives of the prefectural government's Aizu region promotion bureau, 13 municipalities in the region, and universities in the prefecture. Under the new initiative, people in academic circles, including university staff and students, undertake fieldwork and come up with proposals to help cope with problems and challenges faced in local communities and municipalities. Some of their proposals may progress to projects that would involve "horizontal" collaboration between the municipalities concerned as a way to help resolve various issues with both digital and analog approaches. This initiative is based on the "guidelines for wide-area partnerships in the Aizu-region municipalities in the age of the 100-year lifespan," which was laid out in January this year by the prefectural government bureau and the 13 cities, towns and villages. Fukushima University, the University of Aizu and Junior College of Aizu also took part. The first fiscal year of the new body's operation covers nine themes in eight research spheres, including countermeasures against wildlife damage, immigration and settlement, and healthcare and welfare. Of these themes, Fukushima University's Faculty of Administration and Social Sciences will conduct surveys and research on immigration and settlement in the village of Showa as well as measures associated with vacant houses there. The village has a database of vacant and abandoned houses but has seen slow progress in registration, leading to cases of building collapses with no effective countermeasures taken. On the other hand, the village is facing a need to provide housing to people who are seeking to settle in there and work as gypsophila growers. This is an agricultural specialty project that has been promoted by the local government in recent years and the university is set to go in-depth on how to encourage immigration and accept potential arrivals. Research results will be made public -- to the general public in and outside the prefecture -- through a symposium scheduled for next January. Excellent proposals will be recognized with awards and considered for budgeted projects for the next fiscal year or later by the prefectural and municipal governments. As for proposals for which information technology solutions are deemed suitable, the new body expects to ask local information and communications technology firms, including a venture that originated from the University of Aizu, to develop software. On July 1, an opening ceremony was held for Aizu DX Nisshinkan at the University of Aizu in Aizuwakamatsu city. It was attended by Takehiko Takano, chief of the prefecture's regional bureau, the heads of the 13 municipalities and representatives of the universities involved. They reaffirmed the details of the initiative's programs. Takano, who heads the organization, urged the participants to become "single-minded in efforts so that people in Aizu will really acknowledge the affluence of living in the 100-year life era and lead satisfactory lives." (Translated by Kyodo News)