Pandemic response in action: KDDI’s COVID-19 response in Japan

This is the third post in a blog series highlighting the efforts that GSMA Humanitarian Connectivity Charter signatories have taken to help tackle the COVID-19 pandemic in their respective markets.

A leading MNO in Japan, KDDI has long been at the forefront of disaster response and coordination globally. Working with both the wider sector and the Japanese government, KDDI has a wide range of disaster prevention measures in place. When COVID-19 arrived in Japan, KDDI worked to help respond at both the national and international levels.

The following interview is with Eriko Hondo, the Manager of Strategy Standards and Industry Standards at KDDI, who shares more about their response in Japan.

GSMA: How has COVID-19 impacted Japan and the wider region?

Ms. Hondo: Japan went into lockdown in mid-April and was able to ease measures in late June. However, from the beginning of July, cases began to rise again. Guidelines have been established for each of the major industries in Japan to advise on how to prevent the spread of the virus as well as how to mitigate economic and social impact.

GSMA: In what ways did you support your country’s response to COVID-19?

Ms. Hondo: Our basic policy towards COVID-19 consists of the following five points:

  1. We ensure the safety of our customers as well as the safety of our employees and our affiliated companies’ employees above all else.
  2. We continue to respond to the rise in telecommunications traffic and maintain telecommunications services, which are the foundation and lifeline of society.
  3. We actively collaborate with governments, municipalities, and public organizations.
  4. We contribute to the construction of a resilient social infrastructure that is resistant to environmental changes by promoting Digital Transformation (DX) for individuals and corporate customers such as telework, online education, and remote medical care.
  5. We offer customer experiences that can alleviate worries and fill hearts.

GSMA: How have you supported your staff and core operations through this period?

Ms. Hondo: Ensuring the safety of our employees, along with the employees of our affiliated companies, is our top priority. During the lockdown, only a small number of essential workers came into the offices. Our remaining employees, about 90% of workers, worked remotely. Today, we have about 50% of our employees at the office while the rest work at home. As a designated public corporation, a special status granted by the government to key companies, we were committed to ensuring telecom services were available through this crucial time. 

GSMA: Has KDDI taken measures to support your customers and the wider public?

Ms. Hondo: Beyond appropriate hygiene and PPE related modifications in shops, KDDI has also provided our location big data analysis tool, “KDDI Location Analyzer”, to 47 regions of Japan, including 20 cities. As the country declared a state of emergency, we decided to do all that we could to support the response. With this tool, municipalities can understand the broad movements of people using anonymised smartphone location information through big data along with certain demographic characteristics. The tool was developed by KDDI and Giken Shoji International.

GSMA: How have you responded to COVID-19 outside of your normal operations?

Ms. Hondo: We have taken several measures to support the country’s response to COVID-19 that are outside our normal areas of operation. These include:

  • We have made several contributions to hospitals and schools and others (funding of more than one hundred million yen, approximately 942,360 USD) through our direct channels and fundraising organizations.
  • We have contributed to the construction of a resilient social infrastructure that is resistant to environmental changes such as telework, online education, and remote medical care.  This relates to not only helping decrease our customers’ anxieties and difficulties, but also to create fulfilling experiences.  One example of this is our “Book pass” service, which allows customers free unlimited access to e-books.  
  • We usually provide lectures at schools to teach teenagers how to use mobile phones safely and securely. We now provide videos of these lessons and online toolkits so that they can safely use mobile technology.
  • Additionally, Japan is in discussion with other countries at the ministerial level about how to assist developing countries in the current circumstances.  We have been sharing our experiences, especially related to how we have digitised our schools. These provide crucial examples that can help other countries shape their responses.

We expect the impacts of COVID-19 to continue. In this unprecedented situation, KDDI group has a strong will to keep working to find solutions of various social issues through our businesses.  We will continue to connect lives and hearts every day. 

In forthcoming posts, we will share responses from other Humanitarian Connectivity Charter signatories to help tackle the COVID-19 pandemic in their respective markets.

This initiative is currently funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), and supported by the GSMA and its members.
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