Board Chairman of Nakano Ward Industrial Development Organization and Professor Emeritus at the University of Tokyo
Nakano Ward, Tokyo is an area that continues to grow around Nakano railway station, which is four minutes from the Sinjuku station, the busiest railway station in the world, on the JR Chuo line. Just northwest of Nakano Station, Nakano Ward Industrial Development Organization, also known as ICTCO (pronounced as “iku-to-ko”), is located at Nakano Central Park, a redevelopment area with office buildings. As Nakano Ward aims for industrial development of ICT and ICT/content/life support services, ICTCO works with the ward and the local private sector to promote various projects including the management of business incubation facilities, development of ICT and ICT content industry, entrepreneur ship support program, and disaster prevention. We interviewed Mr. Kiyoshi Itao, Board Chairman of ICTCO and professor emeritus at the University Tokyo, who has engaged in cross-industry partnerships since the early days of ICT, about ICTCO’s local efforts and the growth potential of Tokyo in the eyes of Nakano Ward, where housing is located in closer proximity to workplaces.
Q: What are the benefits of becoming a member of ICTCO?
A: ICTCO is an entrepreneurship support organization for residents inside and outside of Nakano Ward. Our office has a lively atmosphere and desk reservation is always full among the members. By gathering at our office, they have the opportunity to interact with other members from different companies. We also host a monthly meeting for networking between the members. In some cases, we invite non-member experts to make a speech about businesses that the members are operating and allow the attendants to share their ideas. This is one of the major benefits of becoming an ICTCO member.
Q: In addition to the management of business incubation facilities, what other projects is ICTCO working on right now?
A: We are implementing a project named “Better Environmental Development and Disaster Prevention Project” to develop an area that can respond to both non-emergency and emergency situations. More specifically, ICTCO measures and records the flow of people at Nakano Sun Mall shopping street and the railway station to gather basic data of places people stay for a long time and stores that are making a profit. In case of a higher concentration of people in times of disaster, evacuation guidance can be provided effectively based on the measured data. The goal of this project is to help develop economies of the area around Nakano Station as well as the public safety system for disaster management.
Q: How did you utilize IT for earthquake preparedness through ICTCO’s Better Environmental Development and Disaster Prevention Project?
A: Japan is a land of earthquakes so we can’t deny the possibility of a major earthquake in the future. Since Nakano Station is on the JR Chuo line, a large number of commuters who can’t get home from Shinjuku will be flooded into the station area in the event of a major earthquake. The evacuation guidance system will transmit traffic information to a large digital signage installed at Nakano Central Park as well as people’s smartphones to guide the commuters to safer places and routes. If the ICTCO building loses power, we plan to use renewable energy and the autonomous distributed power system for temporary operation.
Q: What is your plan on accumulating skills, technologies, and resources at ICTCO and building networks outside the organization?
A: Since ICTCO launched its operation in 2013, the Board Chairman of Seibu Shinkin Bank headquartered in Nakano has helped us greatly in so many ways. A group of topnotch engineers from Kozo Keikaku Engineering and a private think tank Yano Research Institute are also the members of our ICTCO community. ICTCO provides a venue for social experiments. We leverage knowledge of industry, academia, government, and financial sectors, offers various programs to residents and shoppers for evaluation, and the results are fed back to our research. I’m proud to say that this is our strength that other communities don’t have.
Q: And finally, please tell us about your personal beliefs and thoughts on ICTCO.
A: The main focus of my life has been making things and putting them on the market. When I was working at NTT (Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation), I received the President’s Award three times. The award was given to employees who developed a product that was successfully commercialized and accepted by the consumers. I was honored to receive the award for all three projects that I undertook. My motto is to make practical technologies available to the public. In other words, I put technology into practical use only when I determine that it can be accepted by the public. I’d like to continue practicing this motto at ICTCO.