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Back to civil registry for societal gain: World Economic Forum

Back to civil registry for societal gain: World Economic Forum

Civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS), a state’s record keeping for life events such as births, marriages, adoptions and deaths that also traditionally underpins identity schemes, is “crucial to public health, the economy, public service delivery and human dignity” according to an article hosted by the World Economic Forum.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its ensuing number of undocumented deaths have highlighted the importance of CRVS along with its role in allowing full participation in democracy, according to the article’s authors, Steve MacFeely, director of Data and Analytics at the World Health Organization (WHO) and Martin Bratschi, technical director for CRVS at Vital Strategies, a public health organization.

“The difference between reported COVID-19 deaths – 5.4 million between January 2020 and December 2021 – and the estimated number of excess deaths associated with COVID-19 – 14.9 million for the same period – gives some indication of the scale of the problem as a country with good mortality reporting systems will yield minor differences between reported and excess mortality,” write the authors, noting the WHO’s 2015 figures that showed 80 percent of countries as having poor or virtually non-existent civil registries.

Speaking on Biometric Update’s ID16.9 Podcast, outgoing Policy Advisor and Program Manager for Legal Identity at the UNDP, Niall McCann, spoke about the more complex issues around a lack of death registration: “dead people can cause a lot of trouble. Dead people can access pensions. Dead people can inherit things. Dead people can access various welfare programs etcetera. And making sure the dead people aren’t doing things like accessing all of these public services and more brutally from a political standpoint, voting, for example, is incredibly important.”

The article soon comes to something close to the heart of the WEF: the importance of formalizing economies.

“The United Nations and other development agencies encourage governments to formalize their economies, raise taxes and fund public services. But a government cannot formally tax someone who doesn’t officially exist.

“The first step to formalizing an economy is registering births; otherwise, people don’t exist administratively. Those unregistered remain outside the formal system, and without a legal identity, they can’t gain formal employment, pay tax and may be excluded from health, education or social services.”

The authors quote numerous authorities and UN agencies to build their case: “Functioning (i.e. digitized, continuous, permanent, compulsory and universal) CRVS systems are foundational to the UN Legal Identity Agenda. According to Haishan Fu, director of Development Data at the World Bank Group, CRVS is ‘Digital Public Infrastructure at the heart of legal identity, service access and social protection.’”

They reach the economic conclusion that “failure to put in place CRVS systems only squanders economic prosperity by leaving the unrealized potential of millions and millions of people.”

Digitech Development looks at technological and legal ways to boost CRVS

Birth notification via SMS to the central civil registry and mass catch up events targeting children whose births went unregistered in the original legal timeframe are two ways in which Digitech Development, the development division of French firm Digitech, is trying to speed up life event registration for CRVS, the latest episode of the ID16.9 Podcast hears.

The firm offers services to digitize CRVS and send life event notifications from mobile phones via Be.Bound.

“The aim of this technology is to address locations where there is low to no connectivity and areas where there is no civil registry offices in order to increase the rate of life event notification made by the health center staff or village chief for example,” explains Digitech Development’s Margaux Audet in Episode 7: ‘Mass catch ups and SMS’.

“In Côte d’Ivoire it is used for the notification of birth or death but of course it can be used for other life events. One thing to highlight which is very important to us, it is that Be.Bound encoding and compression algorithm drastically reduce the size of data, apps and it can work on low-capacity mobile networks. So it means that it’s very cheap. It is using 1 to 2 SMS to send one notification.”

The firm was part of a consortium that ran an exercise that registered the births of 2.4 million children in the DRC and works with governments on legal reforms to enable rather than hinder civil registry.

Zimbabwe consulate in South Africa runs backlog clearing exercise for birth certificates, passports

Running until 17 October, the Zimbabwean consulate in South Africa is open every day including weekends from 7:30am (until 4pm), increasing the number of daily appointments available from 400 to 1,000, according to a consulate announcement.

The “special intervention” is in response to a continued high demand for birth certificate registration and passport applications of Zimbabwean nationals living in South Africa. It is not clear whether the event is for both consulates or the Johannesburg branch only.

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