Adapting to a New Reality





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Jul 29, 2020
by Oscar Tollast
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Adapting to a New Reality

Salzburg Global Fellow Ryoji Noritake reflects on the impact of COVID-19 personally and professionally and the significance of in-person communication Ryoji Noritake at Salzburg Global Seminar in 2018

Accepting the chance to take part in the Japan-India Transformative Technology Network, Ryoji Noritake wanted to take on a new challenge.

The chief executive officer of Health and Global Policy Institute (HGPI) and pro-bono consultant for Project HOPE, is keen to play a role in supporting the dialog between young leaders from India and Japan.

The Japan-India Transformative Technology Network is a new series held by Salzburg Global Seminar in partnership with the Nippon Foundation. The Network, made up of outstanding change-makers in India and Japan, will accelerate technological innovation for human and planetary health in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Noritake, based in Tokyo, Japan, already recognizes the value of bringing together people from different backgrounds and formulating ideas. HGPI, for example, "is dedicated to fostering multi-stakeholder health policy debate globally, with a commitment to the inclusion of civil society."

India, however, is something new to Noritake. Despite his extensive travels around the world, he has never visited the country. He has recognized, nevertheless, some similarities with Japan.

"I do think India and Japan [have] interesting geopolitical common interests and a common situation that we are [each] basically a democratic country," says Noritake. "Japan… used to be, I would say, a leader for Asia in terms of technology advancements, but that role has since been taken by South Korea, China, and, now, India."

Noritake typically used to travel once a month – often either to Europe or South East Asia. At peak times, he could be taking several flights per month. Since February, however, the spread of COVID-19 has put a stop to this.

The spread of COVID-19 has also affected HGPI's programs in several ways. Noritake says, "We co-hosted, for example, a dialog about COVID-19 with Japan Society UK… We [also] just held [a] multi-stakeholder online meeting on dementia and dementia [societies]… how [they have] been impacted by COVID-19... Physical affection is quite important for caregiving… but COVID-19 has been a barrier to have that kind of non-verbal physical communication."

HGPI had focused a lot of its work on non-communicable diseases in countries such as Japan, Austria, Germany, and the UK. Noritake says, "Just like Empire Strikes Back, COVID-19 brought an important message that infectious diseases [are] quite critical for any nation – any health system." In response, HGPI has now developed a program focusing on immunization and vaccinations.

Noritake, a member of Salzburg Global's Japan Advisory Council, attended a Salzburg Global program in October 2018. Alongside 59 health and urban planning experts, he took part in "Building Healthy, Equitable Communities: The Role of Inclusive Urban Development and Investment."

For five days, Noritake had the chance to work with experts from all over the world and exchange ideas on how to build healthier, equitable communities. He says, "It was very intensive." Noritake was grateful for the chance to spend five days having "honest" and "blunt" discussions. He adds, "Salzburg Global Seminar is actually a lifetime experience – [a] life-changing experience."

At the time of our interview (June 9), Noritake is working from his home in Tokyo. He speaks positively about the many things achieved through online meetings and how much more attention he now pays to his family, close friends, and neighborhood.

Noritake adds, "We are not a car manufacturer… it is rather [easy] to work from home, and that brings new types of work ethics… It is definitely easier to work from home for those who have a little child, those who need to take care of the elderly at home… We definitely can reduce the office space in the future, so the work style has radically [been] impacted."

Despite the positives of remote working, Noritake recognizes the value of the bonding that takes place at in-person meetings, such as the program he attended in Salzburg in 2018. As well as scheduled sessions, Fellows had the chance to speak informally during dinners, excursions, coffee breaks, and more.

Noritake says, "I think that was very cherishable, and that's very important for future peacebuilding [and] for human beings. So, [I'm] also concerned that, yes, we can do this through Zoom or through [another] online [platform], but we definitely need this face-to-face discussion as well, and I hope this kind of face-to-face network opportunity will [come] back soon to this society."

Ryoji Noritake is a Salzburg Global Fellow taking part in the Japan-India Transformative Technology Network, a program held in partnership with the Nippon Foundation. Sign up for our newsletter here to receive updates about this program.