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Digital Okayama 2.0

A few months ago, I wrote about an article describing the digital transition of the Okayama Prefectural Jinjachō, and mentioned that they were planning to move to online applications for many things. An article in the May 13th issue of Jinja Shinpō reported on what happened when they did.

The online application system was made available on April 1st, and can handle eight kinds of standard application. These are the ones that are handled entirely within the Jinjachō, and so they do not need to receive a paper form with a hanko seal on to send to anyone else. The system works entirely within a web browser, so no additional download is necessary, and it is, according to the article, “easy to use for anyone who has shopped online”.

The article provides some usage statistics. The most common application/notification (the Japanese is the same) is for changes in the legal officers of the religious corporation, and there were, in total, 66 of these in April, of which 23 were made online. That’s over a third, and, as the author says, that is a very good start for the first month. The age distribution of the users showed that about half were in their sixties, with a quarter each in their fifties and seventies. The absence of younger people is probably because there are (almost) no chief priests under fifty in the prefecture…

One interesting thing about the article is that it reads almost like an advert. It says how much the system costs, and emphasises the work saved for the Jinjachō staff, because they can simply cut and paste information into the central database, rather than having to copy it from something handwritten. (For names, that could be a serious burden — first figuring out what a particular kanji is, and then figuring out how to make your computer produce that kanji can, together, take considerable time.) They also include a “customer quote” from the chief priest who made most use of it. He is in his seventies, and he commented that it was actually easier than doing it on paper, because nothing needed to be posted, and that it saved him a lot of work because he was responsible for multiple jinja.

The Jinjachō has also set up a form in the system for reporting damage to jinja suffered in a natural disaster. They haven’t had one recently, but that is, of course, exactly the right time to set it up. If Okayama does have an earthquake or flooding, the priests will already know how to report the damage, and I imagine that the information will flow much more quickly than in the past.

This does sound like a good thing, and I expect other Jinjachō to follow in Okayama’s footsteps. Nobody thinks that this sort of paperwork is valuable in itself, and so getting it done as efficiently as possible is the ideal — even if that means not using paper. Now that the infrastructure is easily available, and one Jinjachō has gone ahead and done it, it could spread across the country quite quickly.

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