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Japan may create its own search engine

A consortium of tech companies and universities will consider whether to take on today's search powerhouses.

Japan is limbering up to challenge the might of Google and Yahoo by developing its own search engine.

The country's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has organized a study group consisting of about 20 Japanese electronics companies--including Hitachi and Panasonic--and universities, which will consider the merits of creating a search tool specifically for the country's Web users.

"The group will look into issues including whether Japan will start its own search engine," said Fumihiro Kajikawa, a ministry official in charge of information policies. According to reports, the Japanese government is considering spending up to about $885 million on the plan, as part of its drive to become a more dominant online player.

Japan's prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, has previously said that the country needs to extend its influence in the IT arena.

According to The Times, just over $100 million has already been earmarked for the plan, which could start in early 2007.

Several governments, particularly in countries where English is not the primary language, have shown concern about the dominance that the U.S. and other English-speaking countries have over the IT in general and over the Internet. French President Jacques Chirac, for instance, has called for a new European search service akin to Google Print. France has also teamed up with China to develop an open-source software product.

Graeme Wearden of ZDNet UK reported from London.