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Wednesday, 5 July, 2000, 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK
Japan mayor orders break from computers
Computer games arcade
Japan's youth: Addicted to computers?
A Japanese town mayor is introducing a weekly computer-free day in government offices in a bid to combat dependence on technology.

Every Friday, all official documents and correspondence at Hirata town hall will have to be hand-written, according to reports.

Hirata Mayor Mitsuyasu Ota says staff should see how important it is to be able to do one's work without becoming reliant on computers.
Japanese man and computer
There are fears that computers are harming literacy

He is also concerned about what he sees as increasing lack of human contact in offices and declining literacy.

The scheme will be introduced in government offices in Hirata, in western Japan, this Friday, according to press reports.

"There are a lot of young staff who mistakenly think that they are working by just sitting at their keyboards all day long," he said.

"Young people are not in the habit of writing by hand anymore. It's important to put a bit of effort into writing. Documents or letters composed on word processors often have a lot of incorrect or missing characters."

Unpopular

Mr Ota, a computer fan himself, said he was aware there would probably be a lot of confusion on the first day.

He suggested the idea after realising how reliant he had become on his own computer.

But reports said the proposal was unpopular among young staff, who claimed work would be left undone or held over until a "computer day".

Hirata government staff share 244 computers between 250 employees - almost one per person, according to the Mainichi Daily News.

More than 90% of draft proposals and other official documents are understood to be produced on word processors or computers.

Japan's Ministry of Home Affairs will be closely monitoring the Hirata experiment.

But a ministry spokesman said a whole generation had grown up with computers and did not believe the scheme would catch on.

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