Dean Graduate School of Information Science and Technology Hokkaido UniversityProf. Hiroyuki Kita
Modern Society in the Face of Many Problems
Today, in Japan, the society that we live in suffers from many problems that beg for solutions. These include (1) an insufficient labor force and growing need for caregiving due to a falling birthrate and aging population, (2) the need to maintain a stable energy supply despite few of our own energy resources while considering global environmental problems, and (3) the need to deal with large-scale disasters such as abnormal weather, earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. Some of these problems are unique to Japan while others call for international collaboration, but in either case, they constitute problems common to mankind that must be solved without delay.
Toward an Era That Matches the Needs of Society and Seeds of Information Science
Solutions to some of these problems, however, have reached a dead end, suggesting that some problems cannot be solved solely on the basis of existing technologies. Information science is the field that can respond to such sophisticated needs. Information science and its associated technologies have progressed dramatically in recent years, and through the use of big data and tools like machine learning, deep learning, and optimization technology, data processing power has come to exceed human capabilities. Today, industry and academia are actively collaborating on solutions in fields such as medical care and energy through a “solve it by AI” approach.
This is because the needs of society are beginning to be matched with the seeds of information science. The knowledge and technologies that have so far been cultivated by information science can be used to provide specific solutions to today’s real-world problems. I believe that we are at the dawn of such an era.
Research Covering a Wide Range of Fields
In contrast to the information-science graduate schools of other major universities, the Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, Hokkaido University covers information science not only in a narrow sense as in mathematics and computer science but also in a broader sense as in so-called electrical and electronic engineering that includes such areas as electrical systems, electronics, precision engineering, communications, and bioengineering. This approach reflects research and education concerned with both needs and seeds. In other words, we can perform research and education from two key viewpoints: expertise for dealing directly with current needs (as in electrical and electronic engineering) and expertise for planting epoch-making seeds (as in the fields of AI and IoT). This is a major feature that cannot be seen at other information-science graduate schools.
Producing World-class Achievements Through Interdisciplinary Collaborative Research and a Major/Minor Education Format
Conducting research in relation to both needs and seeds within the same graduate school is advantageous to education as well. This needs-and-seeds approach enables each of our students to acquire knowledge in different fields by selecting both a major and minor field of study. In this way, we are conducting research with globally important themes (e.g., electrical materials, nanoscience, information-communications) as well as research connected to large-scale projects on a national level or to university-born venture technologies. We are also involved in many interdisciplinary collaborative studies.
In relation to the above, the Global Station for Big Data and Cybersecurity (GSB) was established within the Global Institution for Collaborative Research and Education (GI-CoRE) to facilitate international collaborative research with overseas universities and researchers of other schools and faculties of Hokkaido University. We aim to become a collaborative research hub on both a national and global level by promoting exchanges and collaboration with both Japanese and overseas researchers.
Expanding Collaboration Through Reorganization
Plans are being made to reorganize the Graduate School of Information Science and Technology into the Graduate School / Faculty of Information Science and Technology (tentative name). Preparations are progressing with a launch date set for April 2019. We expect this reorganization to enable the creation of new curricula in collaboration with other schools of Hokkaido University such as those of agriculture, science, and medicine. We also see it as an opportunity for broadening interdisciplinary collaboration and the major/minor education format, which have been the core strengths of the Graduate School of Information Science and Technology.
Information science and technology can be used to promote innovation and solve many of the problems facing modern society. The Graduate School of Information Science and Technology fosters interdisciplinary collaborative abilities in this pioneering field. I hope to provide an open and free environment in which students can learn and grow together and become world-class professionals eager to spread their wings in society.