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African digital CRVS Shared Asset initiative advances as collaborative framework is born

African digital CRVS Shared Asset initiative advances as collaborative framework is born

Efforts aimed at putting in place an integrated and harmonized digital Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (e-CRVS) system that will accelerate birth registration in Africa under the African e-CRVS Shared Asset (ACSA) initiative, have got a forward push.

Coalition partners driving the project, today, announced a collaborative framework which will set the ACSA journey on the appropriate rails and define the path, moving ahead.

The partners include ID4Africa, the identity movement; OpenCRVS, the open source civil registration platform, and three development organizations namely UNICEF, UNECA and Vital Strategies, with each of them playing a distinct role, according to the joint announcement.

UNICEF, UNECA, and Vital Strategies will lead the normative aspect of ACSA, delineating standards and norms for developers to adhere to, with input from other seasoned CRVS IT system implementers, sates the announcement.

It adds that they will additionally create a mechanism to evaluate the suitability of existing digital solutions and facilitate the establishment of an advisory board comprising African nations – a board that will guide the initiative by offering technical and oversight support, ensuring alignment with Africa’s CRVS needs.

On its part, OpenCRVS will provide an open digital public good (DPG) implementation of ACSA in line with laid down norms, while ID4Africa will continue to provide support through its knowledge-sharing platforms, including the Annual General Meeting and LiveCasts.

The ACSA project was elaborately discussed during a Livecast last June to summarize a workshop of the 2023 ID4Africa General Meeting in Nairobi where the idea was first introduced.

As part of the plan, a governance and advisory board will also be established with UNICEF, UNECA, and Vital Strategies expected to provide secretarial support with assistance from the Core Group and other development partners. Representatives of African Civil Registration Authorities will be invited to be part of the board.

Underscoring the importance of the ACSA project, the coalition partners say it will provide a way out of a problem many African countries currently face whereby fragmented and manual systems hinder interoperability and prevent legal identity data originating from the civil registration to be used as the foundational identity layer of digital public infrastructure.

They say it aims to provide a normative standard for electronic CRVS systems, facilitating effective sharing and reuse of digital assets while reducing the resources required for system development and maintenance, among other things.

In remarks solicited by Biometric Update after the collaborative framework announcement, ID4Africa Chairman, Dr Joseph Atick, says: “We are excited to see that this initiative, which we proposed during the 2023 AGM, has taken flight with capable development partners who are committed to fostering it and embracing clearly defined roles that leverage their competencies in ways that compliment what the African government authorities will be doing.”

He adds: “This is truly a collaboration driven by key members of our community.  We remain steadfast in leveraging our convening platforms and Ambassadors Bureaus to advance the objectives of ACSA.”

In his own reaction, Edward Duffus of OpenCRVS tells us: “OpenCRVS is committed to providing for the CRVS needs of African countries and their citizens. We will ensure that OpenCRVS is fully compliant with the ACSA normative standard so that all countries have access to a high-performing CRVS system that is available as a digital public good.”

Twenty countries in Africa are on track to register all births by 2030, yet nearly half of all children under 5 on the continent are still unregistered,” UNICEF Global Director of Child Protection Sheema Sen Gupta told Biometric Update in an email. “UNICEF is committed to guaranteeing every child’s right to a legal identity, reflected in SDG 16.9. Our partnership for an African eCRVS Shared Asset (ACSA) underscores our dedication to advancing equitable access to holistic civil registration and vital statistics systems across Africa, beginning with birth registration.”

Some African countries are said to have positively welcomed the initiative, although it remains to be seen how individual countries will sign up to the idea.

An inaugural workshop on this collaborative framework in which specific details will be debated has been programmed during the ID4Africa 2024 Annual General Meeting coming up next month in Cape Town, South Africa.

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