Harnessing mobile technology to improve birth registration systems

Article first published on Medium 07 June 2016

Birth registration is an inalienable right of every child no matter where they are, enshrined in the Convention of the Rights of the Child. Yet, in Cambodia one in every four children under the age of five do not have their birth registered.

Birth registration is the first of all civil registration acts and it’s through birth registration that a child legally acquires an identity. Registering a child will allow for an identity to be established, which in turn acts as a protection tool against exploitation, trafficking and violence.

Data collected in 2013 showed that families in Cambodia were sometimes prevented from registering their children because of lack of birth registration supplies. This meant that families could travel to register their children at the commune office of their permanent residence but there would be no birth registration forms or birth registration books available for the communes to provide the service.

Commune clerks are responsible for assisting commune chiefs in registering children and reporting to district authorities on the existing stock of civil registration supplies. But the existing reporting and requisition system for civil registration supplies is slow, and even reporting on time wouldn’t ensure that commune clerks would receive the necessary birth registration forms and registration books on time.

To address this issue, the General Department of Identification of the Ministry of Interior with support from UNICEF has launched an Interactive Voice Response System that will allow a better monitoring of the available stock of civil registration supplies, including of birth registration forms and books at the commune offices, in order to prevent disruptions in this service. This initiative is being implemented in the 146 communes of Siem Reap and Kratie Provinces and it has shown to have the potential for expansion to the additional 23 provinces of Cambodia.

With the new reporting system built on UNICEF’s RapidPro platform, commune clerks receive a monthly automated call on their mobile phones in which there are asked to respond to a series of questions related to civil registration stocks.

This call collects the information about the number of registration forms and books available and shares it in real time with the District, Province and the Ministry of Interior. This system enables the relevant government entities to re-supply communes faster, avoiding potential disruption in services. This intervention aims to ensure the availability of birth registration supplies at all times at the targeted districts and communes, so that all children are registered without delays.