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Multimedia Fair Promises New Industry for Okinawa

By: Jena Maddalino

Date Posted: 2000-06-10

Last Friday and Saturday, the Ginowan Convention Center was packed with people waiting to see the latest in multimedia technology. Seventy-five companies, from web-design to ISP's, lined the inside of the convention center with informational booths attempting to attract and educate the local population to a potentially lucrative industry. In this era of IP technology, the question seems to be, where does Okinawa stand?

The central government and the local Prefecture have a plan for Okinawa to become a high-tech center, or a hub, for information and communications in the Asia-Pacific area. The hope is that by developing Okinawa into a leader for other Asian countries, the staggering economy and the high unemployment rate will be eradicated.

Okinawa has struggled since the Reversion to build a strong local economy with little success. In 1997, the unemployment rate was 6 percent, while the national average was 3.4 percent.

As a testament to their commitment to the Okinawa market, many big-name companies were present at the fair. NTT and Cisco Systems were the two with the greatest presence; NTT offering a multimedia demonstration of their vision of the future in technology and Cisco offering informative seminars.

Cisco, the makers of network routers and other Internet hardware is one of America's greatest corporate "success stories". Since 1986, the company has grown into a global market leader that holds No. 1 or No. 2 market share in virtually every market segment in which it participates. According to company records Cisco's annual revenues have increased from $69 million in that 1990 (when the company went public) to $12.2 billion in fiscal year 1999.

According to a Tokyo Cisco representative, the company has a real interest in Okinawa. "We are currently teaching at the Okinawa University in Naha. We are also looking into building a call-center here in Okinawa."

This is good news for college students as competition for jobs is high in Okinawa. The Prefecture is currently emphasizing the development of professional skills and education in computer related fields, such as engineering, programming and information technology.

Also present at the fair were Kadena Town representatives as Kadena is slated to open a huge Multimedia center in 2001. The Multimedia Center is on of the three main projects of the "Okinawa Digital Super Corridor Plan" under the Ministry of Postal and Telecommunications. The center's main function will be to support the field of digital audio processing and data conversion. The center plans include main office spaces, as well as a Multimedia Plaza. Nago City will also host a Multimedia Facility and Chatan Town a Virtual Studio.

The government hopes that by building these facilities, companies in other Prefectures will want to set up offices in Okinawa. According to the Prefecture, the three targets of the Multimedia Island Concept are to activate information and communications industries in Okinawa to develop a strong local industry, to use information and communication technologies to make Okinawa a "model" in the Asia-Pacific region and to make Okinawa a hub for information and communications technology.

By attaining these targets, the prefecture hopes to create jobs for 24,500 people (or one percent of the entire labor population across the nation), which is expected to reach 2.45 million by 2010, in the area of information and communications. The Prefecture is also banking on attracting large companies with Okinawa's beauty, geographical location and large population of young workers.

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