Responding to
the Digital Divide

Responding to the Digital Divide Responding to the Digital Divide

Working to enable information
access for everyone

The rise of the 'information society' is accelerating.

SoftBank is providing opportunities to leverage new technologies
in order to create an environment where people can freely access information,
whatever their location or background.

Through initiatives to eliminate the digital divide,
SoftBank is aiming for a society where anyone can aspire to their dreams and goals.

What is digital divide?

It refers to the disparity between those who have access to information and communication technologies such as the Internet, computers, smartphones, and tablets and those who do not. It is also called information disparity. Specifically, the disparity is based on location, age, income level, educational background and availability of human resources.

Supporting youth
with special needs

Magic Lamp Project

Since 2009 SoftBank and EDUAS have been working with the University of Tokyo Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology to jointly conduct the Magic Lamp Project, a case study project utilizing mobile device functions for children with special needs.

Participating schools receive loans of tablets and the personal robot Pepper*1 as the project explores the potential of ICT as a means of communication and recognition based on studies such as those in which children with difficulty in verbal communication were able to communicate with text on a mobile device display, or developed an understanding of the abstract concept of time and the meaning of “hold on a second” by studying a picture of a clock timer on a mobile device.

This research has generated substantial results, such as cases where children who found it difficult to communicate verbally with others in words becoming able to better express their feelings and desires in their own words through conversing with and programming Pepper.

Through the use of ICT, children are able to do things that they previously could not, raising their level of motivation. We intend to expand our activities to enable children to discover even more of their inherent capabilities.

As an educational initiative for children with special needs, the Magic Lamp Project has received high praise.

  1. *1
    Provided at no charge in connection with SoftBank Group Corp.'s Pepper Social Contribution Program.

Using AI to create an environment
where everyone can talk smoothly

The University of Electro-Communications (UEC), a national university corporation, and our company are working together to create a communication tool called SureTalk. Developed an interactive communication system using sign language and voice, and to learn sign language.

Configuration and component technology of interactive communication system between sign language and speech

The SureTalk system consists of a core engine and a sign language database. The core engine part consists of a sign language recognition part that converts the sign language of the hearing impaired into text and notifies the people without hearing disabilities, a natural language processing part, and a speech processing part that converts the speech of the people without hearing disabilities into text and notifies the hearing impaired.

Safe and comfortable smartphone solutions
for people of all ages

With the popularity of smartphones, we offer various seminars on smartphones for beginners. Regardless of the cell phone you use or the communication carrier you have a contract with, you can participate in these seminars by dedicated smartphone specialists who have been independently certified by SoftBank all over Japan.

In July 2020, we launched online smartphone classes using Zoom for customers who could not go outside due to COVID-19. Providing in-store services online is well received as a new option particularly by seniors who worry about going out and those who are not comfortable remaining in shops for extended periods of time.

Major Courses
Seminar Course Name Target Estimated time Contents
Smartphone experience class before you buy
  • For those who are considering purchasing a smartphone for the first time
60-120 minutes (negotiable)
  • Differences between Galake( flip phone) and smartphones, Android and iPhone
  • Basic operation and experience of popular applications such as camera and map
First time to try Zoom
  • For those who are interested in video calling
90 minutes
  • What is online video calling
  • Experience the popular Zoom application
My First Smartphone Payment
+How to use a smartphone
  • For those who are interested in smart phone payment
    (Regardless of whether you own a smartphone or not)
120 minutes
  • How to choose and use smartphone payment / my number point
  • How to select and utilize smartphone payment systems
  • Convenient experience of smartphone
Drawing class with iPad
  • For those who are interested in smartphones and tablets
  • For those who are interested in the Apple Pencil
120 minutes
  • How to use the iPad
  • Introduction to Apple Pencil
  1. *
    We have established our own guidelines for infection prevention measures.

Supporting the use of technology in teaching leadership
to youth
with special needs

DO-IT Japan

Since 2007, SoftBank has been supporting DO-IT (diversity, opportunities, internet working and technology) Japan (run by the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology) to help youth with special needs enter university and find employment.
This program supports students from elementary school through to university who have difficulty reading and writing, with the goal of enabling them to be future leaders in society.

Since 2011 together with EDUAS, an education business operator in the SoftBank Group, we have implemented programs using tablets and seminars for their parents to support learning.

SoftBank will continue to support communication for participants with special needs or suffering from illness, and to foster openness and diversity by identifying barriers in society.

Supporting hearing-impaired people's “Right to Know” through mobile phones

Supporting hearing-impaired people's “Right to Know” through mobile phones

SoftBank is examining how mobile phones and the Internet can help youth with special needs learn and gain independence. Since fiscal 2008, SoftBank has been lending mobile handsets to the non-profit organization (NPO) Nagano Summarize Center to help them develop an experimental system where interpreters in remote locations summarize the content spoken in public speeches in real time. This content is then displayed on a mobile phone. Through collaborations with universities and NPOs, SoftBank is committed to securing equal rights to information for the hearing impaired (“The Right to Know”)* through the expanded use of the Mobile Remote Information Assurance System.

  1. *
    Refers to the provision of information by alternative means to ensure equal rights to information.

Expanding the use of the mobile remote information relay system

Since fiscal 2009 we have conducted introductory experiments towards practical implementation of the Mobile Remote Information Assurance System jointly with universities, including the Tsukuba University of Technology, and NPOs. Since fiscal 2012, with the cooperation of partner universities and institutions, we have sought out universities that wish to be involved with long-distance information assurance, and conducted further experiments of the Mobile Remote Information Assurance System. The knowledge and experience we have gained will be published as a collection of case studies and manuals.

SoftBank is committed to expanding the use of the Mobile Remote Information Assurance System as a means of achieving widespread adoption of an effective long-distance information assurance service.

What is the mobile remote information assurance system?

The Mobile Remote Information Assurance System is a system derived from a business started by the NPO Nagano Summarize Center (in fiscal 2008) and developed and proof of concept tested by a joint research group consisting of the Tsukuba University of Technology, Softbank, NPO Nagano Summarize Center, Gunma University, The University of Tokyo Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, and MCC HubneT.
When a hearing-impaired person attends a class or other similar event, two interpreters working in concert summarize the speaker's words and add them in the form of captions on a PC screen. In a conventional system, interpreters use a networked PC, summarize the speech, and type captions on the PC screen. However, because the interpreters need to be present where the PC is located, there are constraints on the places and times the service can be used.
Under the new Mobile Remote Information Assurance System, the interpreters' summary of the speaker's words is entered on a mobile phone and displayed in real-time on other mobile phones. With this new system, interpreters no longer need to be physically present. They can also use the system while on the move, which widens the opportunities for the hearing impaired to obtain information.

Promoting ways to resolve
the digital divide through
providing information
communication devices
for free

The number of services and devices using Internet communications is increasing every year, and IT has developed into an important lifeline which supports QOL (quality of life). At the same time, it is said that a digital divide is being created due to differences in Internet accessibility according to factors such as living environment and income. When the volume of accessible information is low, this leads to lost opportunities to connect to convenient lifestyle services and new information, which definitely has an impact on academic ability, employment, and income level as well.

As part of our efforts to address the digital divide due to income, SoftBank provides smartphones, tablets, and other information communication devices for free to children who are unable to receive learning opportunities due to poverty and nonprofit organizations that support orphans and other children. In addition, we also provide a system to deliver donations to such organizations through the “Charity Smile” program in which we match every 10 yen monthly donation by customers who use SoftBank services. We will promote the realization of a society in which anyone, regardless of their living environment, can experience the convenience of the Internet through ICT.