Digitization of birth registration in the DRC: a real headache

By Bernardin SEBAHIRE Researcher / ISDR/Bukavu

The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the few countries in the world unable to specify the exact number of its population. The figures put forward by the administration vary from 80 to 100 million inhabitants, but they correspond only to a vague estimate.

In fact, a large part of the civil status archives have been destroyed by the atrocities of the civil wars that have peppered the country’s history since its independence in 1960. Moreover, due to the population’s lack of information, the phenomenon undeclared births is getting worse. In some provinces, the percentage of children under the age of 10 who are not registered in civil status registers is said to be as high as 90%.

Digitization of civil registration and vital statistics: towards the establishment of information and communication technology tools for civil registration civil status in Africa

Information and communication technologies offer opportunities to transform and improve civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems and enable their coverage to be expanded , standardize and streamline processes, consolidate data from multiple systems, and store data at scale, securely, and cost-effectively. Properly used, they can make a significant contribution to the achievement of universal civil registration, to the provision of the legal documentation necessary to assert identity, civil status and the rights derive and the production of accurate, complete and up-to-date vital statistics.

Despite the progress observed in some African countries in this sector, the DR Congo continues to perform poorly. Recordings continue to be made manually from a register book. In the province of South Kivu, in Bukavu, in the commune of Kadutu, the woman in charge of civil status reveals the following: “Out of 10 births, 8 births are declared within the time limit, ie before 90 days; this thanks to the sensitization carried out by the municipality with households. However, the civil status service does not have any software for digitizing records. The municipality of Kadutu, one of the most populated in the city of Bukavu, has more than 450,000 inhabitants, including 285,000 young people”. The civil registrar remembers that 2o years ago she benefited from computer training, thanks to a non-governmental organization for the defense of human rights. Every day, the civil status office of the municipality registers an average of 10 birth declarations.

The digitization of birth registration has gained points in a number of countries. In Namibia, where birth registration is close to 80%, digitization is well advanced. Mozambique has made notable progress in digitizing registration services at decentralized levels.

However, Africa faces significant digital divides and very few people have access to digital services, including civil registration. In most countries, the system relies on a combination of paper and digital processes, with the strategic objective of moving to digitized data. To address these existing or emerging challenges, the African Union adopted in 2020 the Digital Transformation Strategy 2020-2030, affirming the role of digital technologies and innovation in achieving the vision and objectives of Agenda 2063. of the African Union and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

“We need to change our systems, and we are committed to moving towards digital, secure and accessible solutions. By digitizing civil registration systems and centralizing data in the form of legal identity, we can better coordinate services, which is especially important for children in remote areas or affected by conflict or disaster, when they across borders,” said Professor Harrison Victor, Commissioner for Economic Affairs of the African Union. “The launch of this ‘My Name is Nobody’ campaign will advance closely intertwined actions in favor of access to justice for minors, starting from the eminently vital issue of birth registration, and it will also ensure that these important activities are hosted on digital platforms. It’s a win-win synergy,” he concludes.

Despite this promising progress, Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, believes that more ambitious steps must be taken to achieve universal coverage by 2030. “We have seen the There is potential in linking birth registration to health platforms, but much more can be done.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, about 80 percent of births occur in health centers, yet only 38 percent of children are registered at birth.