Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Screen showing all of the people
available to work on a map.

Last week I met Mr. Sunagawa from LocationValue Inc. that runs Otetsudai Networks. Otetsudai Networks is a very cool service that is one of these "perfect for Japan" things.

Because of the advanced aging population and the tendency for many of the younger generation to not be in a hurry to lock down full-time jobs, businesses are having an increasingly more difficult time filling posts - so much so that some businesses are having to close down, not because of lack of business, but purely because they can't staff their stores.

My sister has written about the Japanese youth behavior where less and less stuff is planned - the kids going out and using their mobile devices to meet up or deciding to do things while constantly keeping in touch with each other. These swarming bands of kids are now adults and many of them don't want to be tied down.

These "kids" are not becoming adults. In a recent survey by Otetsudai Networks, most people surveyed cared more about freedom and flexibility than the pay when considering a part-time job.

Enter Otetsudai Networks. With Otetsudai Networks, if you are willing to work, you sign up for the service with your skills and focus, take a GPS reading on your phone and then just hang out. If you are looking for someone for say... 3 hours to man a cash register or help wash dishes, you just send the request to Otetsudai Networks and within minutes, you have a list of people available. The list shows what each person is qualified for, how others have rated their work and exactly how far away they are. Typically you will receive a list of half a dozen or more people within a few minutes.

The businesses are rated too on a per-manager basis so when you're hanging out with your friends and you get a request to go help at the corner convenience shop, you know how your peers have rated that particular guy who's asking you to come and help. You can also counter the request and say you'd go if they paid you 2000 yen / hour instead of 1500.

As more and more people start using this system, it's liable to start filling a very important gap in the workforce. It's also a perfect example of a location based, peer-to-peer reputation based, mobile behavior oriented product for an aging society.

The website is, but most of the functionality is only available on the phone.

Update from Mr. Sunagawa:

1. The English name of the company is LocationValue Inc.
2. Employer will see only the name of applicants rather than all the
available people around. " have a list of people available" may sound
3. primary URL of our web is instead of although
would also be redirected to our site.

UPDATE 2: They have about 45,000 users with 1,000 new users per week.


That's pretty awesome. I wonder how popular such a thing would be with American youth, at least in large cities...

Do you know how many people are using this?

"the tendency for many of the younger generation to not be in a hurry to lock down full-time jobs"

I saw you mentioned your sister reporting on this issue, but is this behavior really so widespread to actually be part of an employment shortage or is it more just shrinking population and a bunch of jobs with very specialized skill sets hard to fill with just a BA? It seems like this service might be more of a way for Japanese employers to avoid full time work and the obligations and benefits that come with it. On the other hand, the rating system does gives the employee a good heads up and the employer valuable feedback.

Andrew: The situation is quite widespread and I think there are a bunch of government stats about this.

I think that part of it involves various regulations involving "temp" work and part of it is the onerous contracts of "temp" companies. However, I think there is an absolute decline in workforce size of young people because of the aging.

This is some AWESOME technology and is exactly what we need here! Let's get the word out and maybe somebody will create something like that in the US, cause I would love to have one of these. I am constantly trying to find jobs near me to do and I have only a part time job in the morning, so the afternoon is all freelance.

Does Otetsudai Networks conduct some sort of face-to-face interview to make sure applicants do have the necessary qualifications/skills before they are "made available" on their system? If not, how do they ensure that applicants are qualified?

Your ID is linked to your phone and there is a reputation/rating system. So... you could cheat once, but then you'd have to get a new phone # to cheat again.

This reads like a sci/fi short to me. I'm amazed and thrilled that something like this could actually work in the world. Every now and then I think the world's becoming more and more the same, and then I read something like this.

How specifically Japanese a phenomenon do you think this is?

I can imagine it working elsewhere, but I think it's relatively specific. Most full-featured phones now have GPS with very high accuracy and usability. The density is so high that there is a pretty good chance that there are people within hundreds of meters from you looking for work. Also, I think the demographics of the aging population are more advanced in Japan than just about any major developed nation.

Do any other countries have a huge penetration of GPS phones?

Joi, I just noticed you were visiting Beijing on Nov 3-4.
I guess you will have a tight agenda there but I'd be happy to meet you there for a coffee or drink as we share quite a few connections (I am based in Beijing and run the event there)
Are you going to the Chinese Bloggers Conference?
PS: I'll also be @ LeWeb3 in Paris

@Andrew: You will find a lot of information about Japanese population
on the following government Web site.

In this survey, summary 7.
the ratio of young people wishing to work has increased for males. The ratio of people working is dropping in the last years.

You can see also the very interesting age pyramid, which will be soon inverted (not good). The base becoming smaller, it means a generation of young people supporting oldest generation.

Oooops I have forgotten the age pyramid.

Wow, that's pretty out there. I don't see why it wouldn't work elsewhere in the world. Although you have to have some pretty high level of trust in these people to employ them on the spot. But then again for some tasks it sounds brilliant. I mean, imagine if you decide to clean out your back yard and need some people to do some heavy lifting, push the lawnmower etc, etc, you could have a team of keen workers in minutes.

Andrew makes a good point about the benefits. The move to part-time and temp staff removes so many benefit obligations from employers. It also means that, in general, people will be less qualified in the tasks they are doing. The more successful otetsudai becomes, the more we can look forward to staff who haven't a clue how to serve our needs.

Well most temp workers and part-timers don't have benefits anyway. In fact, temp workers who go through temp agencies have restrictions that prevent them from easily becoming full-time employees without a huge cost to the employer. Otetsudai Networks doesn't prohibit the promotion of their temp workers to full-time workers in any way. So I think it is actually, in many ways, better than the current structure.

My company is working on something very similar here in the states. We'll have some large-scale demonstrations in New York and Boston in the next two months, and then a public beta in early 2008.

@andrew "seems like this service might be more of a way for Japanese employers to avoid full time work and the obligations and benefits that come with it"

@Joi Ito "I think there is an absolute decline in workforce size of young people because of the aging"

@Locke "I am constantly trying to find jobs near me to do and I have only a part time job in the morning, so the afternoon is all freelance"

All of the above exist here today in northern Spain. And yes, QOS is deteriorating severely with the temp-ing era (¿when does this s curve change so we may "need to" focus on training on the job, org and service quality and not only 100% short term profit once again? What part of this Catch 22 system cld start some change?)

Pros: as a free-lancer myself would love to have an Otetsudai option here ... it may enable much (depending on the vision and moving horizon that it...)
Cons: GPS costs and QOS in Spain, and local uses to pervert the original & innovative ideas and "do more of their usual same": benefit only a few, and play same old feudal control games. (cannibalizing their own systems). Technologies are/can be, what we make of/with them.


Thanks for this story! I'm going to mention it to my 1st year students in my Web Technology lecture.


We are building something similar for the US: We focus on existing employees at retail chains.

@kat, Locke : check it out, send us some feedback!