One of the key objectives of the Innovations and Child Protection Initiative (the “Initiative”) is to identify and prioritize child protection programs that could benefit the most from innovations in technology. After a thorough desk review, gaps analysis, interviews with UNICEF county office staff, and halfway through my four-country tour of UNICEF country offices, several dominant areas have clearly emerged. These include birth registration (and other types as registration), mapping and responding to incidents of violence, collecting and managing data for decision-making, and one program area that arguably embodies the most exciting potential for technological innovation: case management.
First, let me clarify that for purposes of the Initiative, we are referring to information and communications technology (ICT) when we refer to innovations in technology. ICT includes mobile phones and web-based technology such as personal computers, laptops and tablets. Mobile phones are particularly exciting as they are becoming omnipresent even in the most remote and lowest resource settings of the globe.
ICT presents a powerful tool for coordinating, managing and tracking the delivery and quality of different types of services from different service providers to vulnerable children or to children (and adults) who may be victims/survivors of violence. For example, UNICEF in Malawi is exploring how mobile phone technology could be used as a case management tool by Community Victim Support Units (CVSUs) and at “One-Stop Centres” that offer a package of child protection and health services to vulnerable children. Part of the case management system UNICEF Malawi is exploring includes decision-making protocols programmed into mobile phones as job aids for case workers. UNICEF in Mozambique is exploring how using tablets for re-registration of social transfer beneficiaries can be leveraged for effective case management in social protection.
Although still nascent, there are an increasing number of examples using ICT for case management in places such as Kenya, Senegal, Malawi and South Africa by UNICEF and other organizations that work with children. These examples, which mostly have been pilots, have admittedly had challenges in implementation. The challenges, however, are often attributable to how the technology is used and the underlying program design, and not to the technology itself. Challenges, when noted, can often be avoided with revisions to the implementation plan.
Being able to coordinate and manage those different kinds of services for each child, a cumbersome, if not practically impossible task using paper, provides children with a truly integrated and holistic care and support. The lessons about what works and what does not work when using ICT for case management are leading to better designed programs and more effective uses of ICT to coordinate and deliver an array of services and support to children.
Based upon observing increasing experience of using ICT in case management, recommendations for UNICEF include:
- Using birth registration and the issuance of a birth certificate as the entry point and first building block of an effective case management system for vulnerable children.
- Considering using and adapting already developed UNICEF platforms such as RapidFTR for registering births and basic management of cases for follow-up (with its simple flagging function).
- Work with partners and other stakeholders to identify conceptual frameworks for using ICT for different kinds of case management (e.g., victims/survivors of violence; children of all vulnerabilities; beneficiaries of social protection programmes).
- Using ICT for case management integrating cash and social transfers using mobile money or other mobile transfers of vouchers.
Innovation and Child Protection Project Lead