I have read incredible news over the past 20 months, but this one, if true, may take the cake.
I saw the article below back in July last year, and was going to post it but I couldn't manage to do so. On December 31, 2012, the news by Kyodo surfaced that the team the US government sent to Japan right after the start of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident was a special nuclear counter-terrorism group. That resurrected the news in June last year that the Japanese government did not disclose the US data in a timely manner and the government ministers of the Noda administration apologized.
Yukio Edano, then Minister of the Economy, Trade and Industry, was heard again apologizing, as Kahoku Shinpo (original is probably from Kyodo News; 1/1/2013):
Mr. Yukio Edano, then in charge of crisis management as Chief Cabinet Secretary, said, "(If the US data was utilized) it is possible that we could evacuate people in the 'indoor evacuation area' sooner. Why wasn't the data brought up to the parliamentary official level? It is really lamentable."
Well, if the Shukan Playboy magazine is right, it was because no one in the national government could make head or tail out of the US data because it was in GIS format, it didn't even occur to them that the data was in GIS format.
From Shukan Playboy (7/23/2012; part):
The biggest problem was that there was no one at Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency or Ministry of Education who could [recognize the data as] the GIS data. The national government had enacted the law to utilize GIS, but the elite bureaucrats in the Japanese government did not know how to use this data [from the US government].
[We learned that] there were bureaucrats in Kasumigaseki [in Tokyo where the national government ministries are located] who printed out the vast amount data on paper and stared at it, even though the numbers wouldn't mean a thing unless they were opened in GIS software. [Otherwise] competent reporters of the media are equally incapable of making full use of this valuable data. They even call the data "cipher", even if it is not a military secret.
That's the reason why the US government has made the "raw data" available on the Internet since October 2011 that includes locations measured, types and amounts of radionuclides measured, and dates measured. They are making the data directly available because they can't trust the Japanese government or the media [to do anything with the data].
The Japanese government could not understand nor utilize the radiation contamination data taken by the US military because the data was meant to be used in GIS. As the result, the Japanese people did not have a chance to learn about this valuable data. Not even today, more than 1 year after the start of the Fukushima nuclear accident. What good is the NSDI Law [National Spatial Data Infrastructure Law, which became the law in 2007] that is supposed to "fully utilize GIS"?
It's not that this reporter knows much about GIS himself, as he writes,
GIS is a technology that combines geographic information and data such as "main contaminant", "areas of high contamination", "timeline" etc. as a single map to allow sophisticated analysis and quick decision-making when an accident or disaster happens with large-scale contamination of the environment.
GIS software can be downloaded free of charge. With high-performance hardware available at cheaper cost, GIS is widely used throughout the world.
I don't know for certain but it is not likely that the GIS system used by the US government is free software. It is likely to be from Esri, definitely not free, nor cheap. The reporter seems to think it's like a GPS car navigation system from Garmin, or Google Earth.
GIS is decidedly not a technology only for a big accident or natural disaster. It is about how to organize and visualize information geographically.
But isn't this sad, if the article is true? Bureaucrats at the powerful ministries didn't have any idea what the data was about, and they were staring at the printouts and trying to make sense of the numbers, as if by intuition that might come in a divine flash.
Many Japanese readers dismissed the article as "not credible" because it came from a soft-core men's magazine. I found it very credible, particularly the part it describes elite bureaucrats staring at the printouts trying to make sense out of the numbers. That image fits very nicely with the then-head of NISA, who left the disaster response headquarters inside the Prime Minister's Official Residence and went home on March 11, 2012 because he was a "liberal arts major". He never returned to the headquarters afterward.