Published on Investing in Health

Building national civil registration systems that ensure effective service delivery

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© Jonathan Ernst/World Bank

Ensuring that each individual at birth has a unique identification, and that such civil registration is then linked with better and easier access to critical public services such as education, health, social welfare, and financial services is now a growing priority in many countries. Modern electronic systems for Civil Registrations and Vital Statistics (CRVS) can help make this process more efficient and effective.  Yet, most low-income countries still only use paper records for the registration of births, deaths, marriages, or divorces. Retrieving birth registration records, issuing a duplicate copy of a birth certificate or sharing civil registration data with other relevant agencies can be ineffective and time consuming with paper-based systems.

But there are many options now for CRVS software products that countries could use, with varying capabilities, product features, and prices. These include WCC (HERA), Canadian Bank Note (National Identification & Registry), DelaRue (DLR Identify™ for CRVS), Digitech (Civil Status solution), KP VTI (Civil Registry Systems), Axiell Group (VITAL RECORDS AND STATISTICS SOFTWARE), Genesis (WebLE), Promadis (Births, Deaths and Marriages Registry), and Object Consulting (CRVSNOW). Plan International and Jembi are developing a software system (OPENCRVS) expected to be released sometime this year, which will be based on open source standards-based solutions. Starting this week, one of these products, CRVSNOW will be available free to low-income countries to help modernize their CRVS systems. 

What Drives Country Decisions on CRVS Systems?

There are many factors that play into country decisions to choose when establishing modern CRVS systems. One is whether to build a customized system or to purchase an off-the-shelf CRVS software that can be individually configured. The advantage of the tailor-made software is that it can be built according to specific needs based on the country context, but there are some drawbacks-- it may take years to build, requires hiring highly-skilled software developers, and it may be uncertain until it is completed whether it will actually work as planned. With commercial off-the-shelf CRVS software, officials have the opportunity to examine available software systems on the market that have already been field tested and are functional in order to select one that best meets the needs of a country’s CRVS system and that the country can afford to buy.
Another area of concern that governments usually have is vendor lock-in -- where they are dependent on a single vendor to manage their system. Governments should ensure that mitigation measures are included in the software vendor contract, so that they have the right to test the system and agree to purchase it only when satisfied that the software will work and that they always have unrestricted access to the data, which should be encrypted, so that third parties cannot have access to confidential civil registration records. And finally, the source code should be protected—it should either be held in escrow in case the vendor becomes bankrupt in the future and/or there should be a buyout option for the code.
The World Bank Group does not endorse specific vendor products and encourages countries to make informed decisions on the best overall value for money while taking into account quality, cost, and other factors.  But the fact that one is now available free of charge to LICs could be a significant factor in the expansion of use of such systems—and make it easier for all people to access the services they are entitled to.

CRVS eLearning Course

To learn more about the practical tools and approaches to achieving 21st century state-of-the-art CRVS systems that are linked to identity management systems and tailored to local contexts, you can enroll in the highly successful flagship CRVS eLearning course which has been taken by people from over 130 countries and is available in English, French, and Spanish.


Samuel Mills

Senior Health Specialist, Health Nutrition & Population Global Practice at the World Bank Group

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