Applications for 189 Berlin state services possible only via fax, report finds

Applications for 189 Berlin state services possible only via fax, report finds

An internal report from the Berlin government found that 189 of the city's 731 state services could still only be applied for via fax in 2023.

5.333 fax machines operating in Berlin's Senate offices

Responding to a question from the FDP, a report by the Berlin Senate Department for Digitisation has found that 189 of the 731 state services offered in Berlin can exclusively be applied for via fax.

According to the report, Berlin’s administrative offices were still using 5.333 fax machines to process applications in 2023, 3.263 of these machines were in operation in Senate offices.

While the internal report is originally from January 2023, an extensive article by Berlin public broadcaster rbb, asking “Why are there still fax machines? Are fax machines even still allowed?” has shone a spotlight on the figures more recently.

Speaking to the broadcaster, a representative from the local administrative office in Berlin Mitte explained that faxes are mostly used for communication between administrative bodies and the Senate for Environment, Transport and Climate Protection, adding that the Disaster Control Act rules that fax should provide a “fallback in case of emergency”. 

Even at the federal level, there are many fax machines still floating around. A memo published on the Bundestag website on November 16, 2023, noted that under a meeting resolution that day it was agreed that fax machines would be removed from all Bundestag buildings by June 30, 2024.

Germany takes baby steps towards digitisation and less bureaucracy

Under the coalition government, Germany is slowly taking steps to digitise more services and reduce heavy bureaucracy. Most recently, Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced a new draft law to reduce paper-heavy bureaucracy in the federal republic.

The Bürokratieentlastungsgesetz IV (Bureaucracy Relief Law IV) will require businesses to keep tax accounting documents from the past eight years, rather than 10. When it comes to travel; passenger check-in procedures at airports will be digitalised and hotels will no longer have to register guests with a German passport.

According to Germany’s Ministry of Justice, the new law could save companies in Germany around 625 million euros in rental costs for storage space.

There are pulls from all angles. While a Bureaucracy Museum newly opened in Berlin by the INSM lobby group pokes fun at Germany’s paper-heavy ways, speaking recently to ARD host Michael Strempel, Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (SPD) said that people in Germany generally think that reducing bureaucracy is good, “but when a concrete list [is given...] people say, “Please, not in this case, or not that case” [...] there is no perfect solution”. 

Asked by Strempel if people should be worried that they will be left out in the cold as Germany begins to loosen its tightly thatched bureaucratic system, Buschmann said there had to be some give.

Thumb image credit: Art789 /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan

Editor for Germany at IamExpat Media. Olivia first came to Germany in 2013 to work as an Au Pair. Since studying English Literature and German in Scotland, Freiburg and Berlin...

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