Japan's digital minister flamed and shamed for using his smartphone in Parliament

His job is to modernise Japan but Googling electoral trivia to ensure accurate answers is not allowed

Japan's digital minister, Taro Kono, faced a backlash on Monday after he attempted to use his smartphone to look up info during a meeting of the Budget Committee of the House of Councilors, contravening meeting rules.

Kono was not trying to hide his use of the smartphone, but rather pulled his phone out after being asked a question about the identity of the foreign minister in March 2019.

"Let me check," replied Kono, before being reprimanded by the chair as if he had used his phone in a round of pub trivia.

The minister addressed the matter in a press conference the next day.

"It was my mistake and I apologize for any inconvenience," admitted a chastened Kono.

However, the minister also cheekily retweeted a post to X/Twitter that stated "I expect Kono-san will respond with a 'get with the times' witty response in due course." That’s a reasonable assumption given the minister oversees the job of bringing a reluctant Japan into the digital age.

The incident has reportedly sparked a debate on whether smartphone use should be allowed in Japan’s parliament.

At present, tablets and laptops are allowed, but smartphones are thought to interfere with question-and-answer sessions.

Liberal Democratic Party House of Councilors secretary-general Hiroshige Seko suggested that if all parties agreed, the ban should be lifted. Others suggested adding rules around the device’s use. ®

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