Tokyo’s Edogawa Ward Pilots Metaverse Office to Enhance Accessibility
Edogawa Ward in Tokyo is embarking on a groundbreaking trial by introducing a virtual ward office in the metaverse. This initiative aims to provide administrative services to individuals who are unable to physically visit the real-life office. In this virtual “metaverse ward office,” local residents can navigate a digital representation of the municipal hall using avatars, replicating the layout of the physical counterpart. The ward’s long-term goal is to make this service accessible to all residents and extend it to cover all departments by fiscal year 2028.
Enhancing Accessibility through the Metaverse:
Starting from September 20th, select local groups, particularly individuals with disabilities, have been granted access to complete procedures and seek consultations within the virtual department of welfare for the disabled. This pioneering approach, a rarity nationwide, aims to ensure that administrative services are equally accessible to everyone, including those facing barriers to visiting the physical ward office.
The Scope of the Virtual Office:
During the initial test phase, access to the virtual office is limited to specific groups of people with disabilities as designated by the ward. Within this virtual space, users will find a general information lobby and a consultation room staffed by the ward’s department of welfare for the disabled. Users have the capability to exchange messages through audio and chat functionalities.
Digitization of Administrative Procedures:
Edogawa Ward has been actively digitizing various administrative procedures to offer equitable services to all residents, irrespective of their location or disabilities. Out of the 2,697 procedures offered by the ward, 1,112 have already undergone digitization. Additionally, 103 of the ward’s 139 departments that provide consultation services now offer online consultations.
The Metaverse Office as Part of a Broader Policy:
The introduction of the metaverse office aligns with the ward’s overarching policy. Following feedback and user input gathered during the trial period, the ward intends to expand the metaverse service to encompass all departments and serve all residents by fiscal year 2028, coinciding with the planned relocation of municipal government buildings.
Advocating for Further Changes:
Simultaneously, Edogawa Ward aims to engage with the national government to advocate for procedures currently requiring physical visits, due to legal reasons, to be transitioned to entirely online processes.
Ward Mayor’s Vision for Accessibility:
Mayor Takeshi Saito expressed the ward’s vision during a press conference, stating, “We hope to bring about an ‘ultimately barrier-free’ system where everyone, including those with disabilities or those confined to their beds, can receive services of the same quality through the use of the metaverse ward office.”
Edogawa Ward’s pioneering venture into the metaverse represents a significant step toward enhancing accessibility and ensuring that administrative services are available to all residents. The commitment to digitizing procedures and embracing innovative technology underscores the ward’s dedication to providing equal opportunities and services for individuals with disabilities and those facing various constraints. As the trial progresses and user feedback is incorporated, the metaverse ward office stands as a testament to the potential of technology in reshaping public service delivery and fostering inclusivity.