It is the fundamental right of a child to get a registration certificate when he/she is born. Lack of a birth registration remains a critical impediment in provision of basic services to citizens by the government as the government’s ability to feed, house, clothe and provide opportunities for the citizens depends on the timeliness and correctness of population data and trends.
Unfortunately, Pakistan has a birth registration rate of only 33.6%, resulting in approximately 60 million children being excluded from any centralized database. This unavailability of timely and accurate data hinders better planning and decision-making at the policy level, limiting the availability of resources and facilities. District and town planning authorities utilize population data to estimate and use as the basis for their population welfare programs and better service delivery.
However, the process of birth registration has been marred by a host of socioeconomic and cultural hindrances including time, cost, travel, processing complexities and a general lack of awareness among the masses limiting registrations to only one-third of all children in the country. Technology has a way to disrupt manual, inefficient processes into integrated, accessible, useful points of centralized information acquisition. And it did so in this case.
Telenor Pakistan developed a Digital Birth Registration project in an effort to create an enabling environment to make the process of birth registration user-friendly, efficient and transparent. Telenor’s strategic global partnership with UNICEF places it in a unique position to research problems, propose and develop solutions leveraging its technology expertise. In this case, the solution will provide facilitation to citizens and other stakeholders through infrastructure and capacity building.
The government launched the digital birth registration program last year in collaboration with the telecom provider in selected districts of Sindh and Punjab. Under the program, nikah registrars and union council secretaries have been providing training to use mobile phones and tablets for online birth registration. The program hosts live data flows of birth registration applications. A server of data registration will also be established in the offices of the deputy commissioner and the local government director for their access.
The Digital Birth Registration project from Telenor Pakistan has been nominated for the GSMA Global Mobile Awards (GLOMO) 2018 in the ‘Outstanding Mobile Contribution to the UN SDGs’ category.
In addition to giving Pakistani children the right to access to basic amenities by way of a registered identity, such initiatives also sensitize the masses about the efficacy of mobile technology in order to provide better access to public services. The solution aims at making a more inclusive community, with structured information acquisition to provide better access to facilities and resources. There is no change to the official procedures and requirements, however the automation just makes it more transparent and efficient.
Currently this process is being rolled out in 9 districts — 5 in Punjab, 4 in Sindh — with the possibility that it will be available throughout the country, but there is a dire need to automate all departments which still employ the decade-old procedures. Efforts are needed from the government to help nurture these platforms so that they continue to evolve and contribute towards sustainable development of our society.