Local Govts Increasingly Going Digital for Forms

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, in 2021

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — A growing number of local governments have adopted digital technology for over-the-counter services to allow residents to take procedures, such as submitting notifications on change of address and receiving certificates, without having to fill out application forms.

The introduction of “no writing, no waiting, no being sent around” counters has brought change to the time-consuming, cumbersome administrative procedures, helping improve services for residents, such as reducing the waiting time and burden on visitors.

Such “no writing” counter service was first introduced by the city government of Kitami, Hokkaido, to solve problems faced by residents, such as not understanding how to fill out forms and having to go through the bureaucratic maze of multiple counters.

After more local governments started offering similar services, some have adopted advanced systems of providing one-stop services to handle additional procedures, including for medical subsidies, child allowances and national health insurance, helping reduce the number of counters that applicants need to visit.

Residents submit applications to local governments for each major life event, including moving, marriage and childbirth, but multiple procedures overlap in many cases. For example, when a child is born, parents need to apply for medical subsidies, child allowances and local governments’ own subsidies. In addition to writing names and addresses by hand many times, they need to visit respective service counters and wait a long time.

According to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, as of June this year, 304 local governments, out of all totaling more than 1,700 across the country, had introduced a system that does not require applicants to fill out forms at their counters.

The municipal government of Fukaya, Saitama Prefecture, began operating such a system in July 2020. Personnel listen to the information provided by applicants and issue certificates. Applicants only need to check application forms and sign them.

As a result, the time for the issuance of certificates was shortened by an average of nine minutes and that for resident transfer procedures by 25 minutes on average.

The services have been well received by local residents.