Interview of Yuta Ishii, the MIC Representative of eVITA in Japan

[AO]: Mr Ishii, thank you for your time today. I want to start with your department inside the Ministry of Internal Communications, could you tell us more about that and your role there?

[YI]: Sure, I’m in charge of the International Strategy Bureau Communication Standardisation, which oversees standardization production in the field of ICT, and within that, I’m also in charge of the SCOPE international standard acquisition program.

Specifically, for the operation of the scheme I’m in charge of the procedures, everything from submission to acceptance under the SCOPE framework; the contracting procedures with the government and the contractors of the accepted proposals; and the preparation for the evaluation meetings in Japan.

[AO]: I see, so you are working with e-VITA now, but you are also involved with all of the procedures before selection.

[YI]: That’s right, we also work on the evaluation process, asking the researchers to evaluate their activities, and then tallying up the scores from that process to see what we should do next.

[AO]: As for the next question, considering the challenges ahead, e-VITA is striving to make international social implementation a reality, but what do you think will be the key to achieving this?

[YI]: This is just my personal opinion, but I think that in order to create the e-VITA device and virtual coaching system, coming from the research activities and implement it into society, it is necessary to have a common part that transcends various people’s cultures and background. I also think it’s necessary to raise the profile of the product in order to actually see it be used.

[AO]That’s a good point. We’re still focusing on raising our profile, and from January to March, we’ve worked hard to get our website up and running, and to promote the name “e-VITA”. Of course, we will continue to do so in the future as our activities progress.

[YI]: Yes, for example, if you’re going to use it in a nursing home, the staff might not want to use it because it’s their first time seeing it, so I think there are some hurdles that need to be overcome. I think it’s necessary to lower the barriers in order to introduce something.

[AO]Yes, it’s definitely important to make it simple and easy to understand. I would like to continue with the third question. There are a number of work-packages in this project, where WP4 is one related to international standardisation. One of the main purposes of this project is to find out what pieces are missing and to propose “seeds” to contribute to standardization. If there is anything else that you would like to add on this topic, we would like to hear your thoughts. 

[YI]: We’ve been thinking about standardization in terms of technology, such as Wi-Fi or communication standardization and so on, but if we think about e-VITA as a system that is more human-oriented or more end-user-oriented, I think there is a point when we need to take in various opinions – because there are so many different people and so many different opinions, it could be hard to find a common ground. However, the difference between e-VITA and other projects is that e-VITA has a lot of organisations inside it, which is something that we haven’t had before. So, I’m hoping that you’ll be able to find the missing pieces, by thinking and testing together. 

[AO]: That’s right. What was your impression from joining our consortium meeting?

[YI]: I think it’s great that we can exchange ideas and opinions in this meeting. I was wondering if it’s usual to have such an open discussion and interaction, compared to other projects, but I think that’s going to be very effective for this project. Three years is a short period of time, and we need to work towards standardization before that period. Especially now due to the coronavirus pandemic, with various restrictions, it may be difficult to conduct the proof-of-concept experiments. 

[AO]: I think that’s exactly why we’ve been having these remote meetings more frequently, very intensely for the last six months at least. I think that this trend will continue after July, too. 

[YI]: Please do your best! 

[AO]: Finally – I know that we don’t know what the form of the e-VITA coach will take yet, but if you had something like that, how would you want to use it?

[YI]: Perhaps if I was living alone, I think I would like to use it as a conversation partner. If I think about parents or grandparents having it, it could also be a conversation partner for them, and I think I might use it to check up on them how they are doing, it could watch over them. 

[AO]: I see, thank you very much for your time, Mr Ishii. 

[YI]: Thank you very much. 

This interview was conducted by one of our Consortium Members, Asako Ohara, of Misawa Homes Institute of Research and Development Co. Ltd.