Activity Report of IIS E-Commerce and Digital-Cash Committee

Kanta Matsuura and Hideki Imai


The University of Tokyo has ten faculties and twelve institutes. Among them, Institute of Industrial Science (IIS) constantly explores to enhance its creative interactions with industry. In order to promote the interaction activities, the Foundation for the Promotion of Industrial Science (FPIS) was found in 1952. FPIS is supported by prominent scientists and engineers in representative industrial companies. In comparison with committees or forums directly under Japanese national universities, those under FPIS can provide more flexible joint activities between academic and commercial people.

As a project committee under FPIS, we started “IIS E-Commerce and Digital-Cash Committee (ECODIC)” in April, 1998. ECODIC is a unique academic-commercial joint forum and has piled up its first-year activities to produce an annual report. Our paper will first summarize these activities in a comprehensive way. We can find there a wide range of topics: example/ experience reports, legal aspects, political issues, specific technologies, and system evaluation/survey. Outline of monthly meetings will tell a lot. The invited speakers of the meetings were not only from software/hardware companies but also from the central bank, law offices, insurance companies, and so on. University professors gave excellent surveys and taxonomy.

The evaluation of the meetings would be given by averaging the percentage of attendance; approximately 80% for the first ten meetings. This suggests the committee members’ high interest in ECODIC activities. How to organize them will be also briefly introduced. One tip is NOT to restrict the presenters to senior researchers or business managers. Graduate students can give an excellent talk and actually two students contributed a lot to ECODIC activities of the first year. Another tip is observer assignment; the organizers allowed some of the invited speakers to participate not only in the ECODIC meeting where they gave a talk but also in the following ECODIC meetings. This system was not official but contributed to the activities via discussion of high quality and announcement to different communities.

The paper will then continue to focus on ethical issues discussed in the meetings. Aside from technological issues, the most difficult problem in general is on privacy of consumers. Since we have no final solution now, we did not list the term “privacy” in the glossary attached to the ECODIC annual report. The glossary lists 78 terms up. We hope that this will make a bridge among electronic-commerce people including manufacturers, software vendors, network engineers, bankers, lawyers, politicians, and consumers or users. The bridge would contribute to further discussion on ethical issues in electronic-commerce and digital-cash industry.

Payment system is an infrastructure related with both business and private life. Ethics is clearly a global subject of concern especially when we consider electronic-commerce and digital-cash systems. IT, ethics, and infrastructure in the future of the Information Society — ECODIC activities can provide a good seed for discussion in various perspectives; Work, Home and Leisure, and Regulation are of course included.