JCA-NET: From e-mail inbox to anti wire-tapping in Japan

By FN for APCNews DHAKA, Bangladesh, 20 April 2006

Tadahisa Hamada (46) studied mathematics, but had his heart in the social world. "From early on, I was very much interested in social problems. I was a member of a scientists’ group concerned about social responsibility, which was formed after the Vietnam War, since I was a student of junior high school," he says.

While working as a researcher at the Japanese company NEC, he got started on his route to civic involvement with an organisation meant to network the non-profit community in his part of the globe. One thing led to the other, until three years back, when he quit his job to devote time to the field in which he felt he could make a more important contribution. “By then, JCAFE had become very busy, so I had to choose between the company [I worked for] or the non-profit," he says.

Hamada is currently chair of the not-for-profit organisation JCAFE, which stands for Japan Computer Access For Empowerment. "We founded [APC-member] JCA-NET from JCAFE, the mother organisation. JCAFE started in 1993, and JCA-NET started in 1997. JCA-NET is an internet provider for [non governmental organisations] NGOs, while JCAFE is a technical support group for NGOs," he explains.

When they created JCA-NET, JCAFE was understood to be a technical volunteer organisation supporting JCA-NET. Now the situation changed, and both work as internet service providers (ISPs). JCA-NET provides services with the APC domain name, while JCAFE provides original domain names for Japanese non-profits and does work like system construction or system development, databases or website building.

JCA-NET and JCAFE have many common members, and both has their own NGO network. Both organisations sometimes host conferences jointly, or collaborate in some activities.

JCA-NET’s membership covers a wide range of groups, from advocacy groups to those campaigning for peace, women’s groups, and environmental greens. The famous Japanese portal site ‘Labournet Japan’ is a heavy user. Keystone, an Okinawa-based peace network campaigning against the installation of US force bases there, is also with JCA-NET.

"We have mailing lists too. The biggest mailing-list at JCA-NET is AML, the Alternative Movement List. There are several thousand members on this general list. Many kinds of topics are posted, and maybe 20 to 30 messages a day. It’s in Japanese," adds Hamada. "JCA-NET doesn’t provide blogs, but the user can set up a blog on JCA-NET."

In JCA-NET, there are currently around 600 user-members, and some 50 to 60 regular members.

JCA-NET has no paid staff, and its work is outsourced.

Japan meets APC

"I was a researcher in a computer company. When I first started to use the internet in [its early days in] 1988, I thought the internet held out very big possibilities to change our society [for the better]. Then, while I was a technical volunteer for an NGO at the time the Gulf war just started in 1991, I ran into the APC," he narrates.

At that time, he was pessimistic about the chances of building an online network for non-profit groups and those working for social change. But, he found an already-existing network overseas. "So I thought it was a fine time to set up an NGO network in Japan," Hamada adds enthusiastically.

After two years of preparation, Hamada and friends set up JCAFE in Tokyo, where it is located at Chiyoda-ku. In 1995, some women members of JCAFE participated in the Beijing women’s conference where APC was also present. This was followed by a visit of the APC’s then secretary-general to Japan. In November of that same year, Hamada went to Rio de Janiero to participate in an APC council meeting, and JCAFE became a partner-member of the Association of Progressive Communications at that point.

In 1997, the APC membership was transferred from JCAFE to JCA-NET. Says Hamada: "The purpose of founding JCAFE was setting up an APC node in Japan. We thought we’d need NGO information from abroad, and we should share the same from Japan."

Hamada believes this might be the biggest organisation of its kind in Japan, providing computer services to non-profits or NGOs. Many of them now go to commercial companies, since more possibilities exist, he deplores. “We are not sadly looking at the spectacle in our corner, we have enough advocacy to keep busy,” Hamada specifies. "Now, we’re campaigning against the Conspiracy Crime Law. We are also considering how to better participate in some NGO activities in Japan," he says.

The Conspiracy Crime Act

Until now, an idea or a conversation could not be treated as a crime in Japan. But under this expected new change in law, an agreement between at least two persons could be treated as a crime in certain cases. If the police have evidence to prove a conversation could potentially be threatening the Japanese state, people involved could legally be punished.

"I think it is very dangerous. [It could impact the] online world, internet, email, telephone conversation, or conversation in houses. Or in a pub, for that matter. If the act is passed, I think the police would have a right to wire-tap freely, because they would need to collect evidence of the ‘conspiracy’," he explains.


Hamada Tadahisa: taratta jca.or.jp

Author: --- (FN for APCNews)
Contact: APCNews
Date: 04/20/2006
Location: DHAKA, Bangladesh
Category: Members

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