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Start small, test, and iterate: legal ID delivery advice from OpenCRVS engagement lead

ID16.9 podcast interviews first stakeholder from technology provider

Civil registration and vital statistics registries are critical tools for governments to understand the populations they are trying to serve; but what motivates new parents to engage with the registration process? What if the cost of getting a birth certificate seems to outweigh the benefit it conveys?

The third episode of the ID16.9 podcast presents a first look at technology dedicated to addressing the challenges around legal identity, focusing on open-source civil registration system OpenCRVS.

Host Frank Hersey, an editor at Biometric Update, begins by laying out the relationship between civil registration and birth certificates.

OpenCRVS Head of Community Development and Engagement Annina Wersun then joins the podcast to discuss the challenges that arise for millions of people around the world when trying to acquire their child’s first legal identity credential. These range from costs associated with travelling to a registration center or registrar, to the chances that the registrar, who often has other roles and responsibilities, may not even be there.

First cautioning that the positive impact of technology is limited without “process improvement,” Wersun described motivating people to engage in birth registration processes by making service delivery easier. An example is the registration of births through community health workers in Bangladesh, which locates the process in the parents’ own home, and at the same time as infant health check-ups.

Birth registration processes should in some cases begin even before birth, such as to help parents acquire the documents they will need to register a newborn.

OpenCRVS is configured for each country it operates in, starting with small implementations and using an iterative development approach.

The organization is now exploring regulatory sandboxes as a way to show departing from existing rules and regulations can enable civil registration to “make the gains required to achieve universal registration.”

Wersun urges manual testing of civil registration systems, and starting small, noting “if you go ‘big bang’ you’re going to have all the big problems and the little problems at the same time.”

OpenCRVS can also be used as a testing tool by countries, as they evaluate their registration processes and the legal infrastructure around them.

The use of open standards and a health information architecture allow data sharing, and make OpenCRVS compatible with other platforms like MOSIP.

The organization is now considering the possibility of producing digital birth certificates, and perhaps even more importantly, Wersun says that there seems to be a “shift in understanding” on the part of governments about how important civil registration is.

To convince people, she says, the best strategy is to focus on making services easily accessed, rather than investing in public messaging campaigns.

The next episode of the ID16.9 podcast, examining the role of the private sector in legal identity provision, is coming soon.

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