Oh, MITI, how I’ve missed you…

But I’m still waiting for that Fifth Generation artificially intelligent mainframe…

Tokyo, alarmed by the global dominance of Google and other foreign Internet services, is spearheading a project to try to seize the lead in new search technologies…

“The question is how Japanese companies like Sharp and Matsushita can be encouraged to provide [Internet] services. They clearly have the know-how to build things,” says Toshihide Yahiro, director of the information service industry division at [MITI]… [Yes, time to build some things!]

Tokyo hopes to use Japan’s strength in developing devices, such as mobile phones and car navigation systems, to create proprietary search and information retrieval functions. But some question [cough] whether a state-led project is capable of [overtaking] Google.

The Japanese project is comprised of 10 partnerships, each tasked with a specific next-generation search function. For example, the government has matched NTT Data with Toyota InfoTechnology Center and Toyota Mapmaster to create an interactive, personalised car navigation system. Other partnerships involve NEC, Hitachi and Sony Computer Science Laboratories. [MITI] has allocated Y14bn-Y15bn… to the project.

“Seventy per cent of car navigation systems are made in Japan. There is scope for more personalization,” says Mr Yahiro. “There is a need for car navigation systems that are capable of searching for which bathrooms are equipped with baby-changing stations and other necessities.” [Not to mention those fancy electronic toilets that will perfume your rear!]

Some blame Japan’s copyright laws for holding back the development of web services. Services such as Google hold copies of other companies’ web pages on their servers. Because Japanese law forbids the duplication of copyrighted works without the rights holders’ permission, Yahoo Japan, Google Japan and other search engines offered in Japan operate from US-based servers. [Yes, well, that could be an issue.]

We’ll be checking in on MITI’s newest project regularly.

From the Financial Times.