Forget paperwork, the mobile phone is king for registering births in Ghana

Victoria Tuffoun, a 30-year-old mother of Stephen Nyarkotey was happily surprised when she went to register her baby in Abloma in the GA West District of Greater Accra region. There was no long wait, the process was quick and his birth certificate was picked up within a short time — Stephen’s details have been automatically stored in the national data system of the Births and Deaths Registry for easy analysis.

“We are blessed to get the birth certificate. But, I am highly surprised that my son’s bio data was captured by mobile phone and his birth certificate was issued,” she says as she kisses her baby.

Thanks to Mbirth, a mobile birth registration system, many mothers in hard-to-reach communities will have an opportunity to register their children under one for free. The new system is a big move for the Ghanaian government to allow them plan for education, health and other public services. The initiative is a partnership between UNICEF and the Millicom Group, operating under the brand name Tigo.

Prior to the launch in Ghana, several African countries like Uganda and Tanzania were already using the mobile birth registration system, recording remarkable results.

“As the first mobile network operator in Ghana, we are proud to continuously lead in digital innovation. Our role in this initiative is exciting. We are providing both the devices and the connectivity. This significant investment in our children, who are the future of Ghana, is a critical component of our commitment to using mobile phones to transform lives,” said Chief Executive Officer for Tigo Ghana, Roshi Motman.

She added: “Our investment in healthcare technologies is part of our commitment to partner with various stakeholders to bridge the gap and provide accessible and quality healthcare irrespective of where people are located. We are absolutely committed to helping the government improve on the quality of healthcare and education through mobile technology.”

The new system in Ghana simplifies the process of birth registration. The baby’s name, sex, date of birth and family details are put into a mobile phone which is then sent to a central database managed by the Births and Deaths Registry. Once received, an automated response allows them to issue a birth certificate on the spot. The mobile birth registration system will be rolled out in 300 communities for the pilot programme.

It is expected that the new system will improve the rate of birth registrations by up to 70 percent by the end of 2016 — a total of 670,800 births will be registered at the end of the pilot programme.

“This new system promises to eliminate the use of providing forms hence solving the problem of registration backlogs, it also offers the opportunity to monitor performance in real time as well as reducing the turnaround time for processing the birth certificate,” said the Registrar at Ghana’s Births and Deaths Registry, John Agbeko.

According to the Registry, in Ghana, more than 4 in 10 children are not registered at birth. And even when children are registered, many do not have a birth certificate — about 15 percent of the registered children below the age of five do not have a birth certificate. Children who are not registered at birth or without identification documents are also at risk of being excluded from accessing education, health care and other basic services.

“For us in UNICEF, for every child an identity and a nationality must be ensured. Birth registration is a fundamental and first right of a child. A birth certificate is the most basic document providing the age and nationality of the child. It is the right of every child,” said UNICEF Ghana Deputy Representative, Rushnan Murtaza.

“There is no doubt that the government of Ghana will eventually set up a national automated birth registration system that will contribute to overall system strengthening. UNICEF will continue to work with the Births and Deaths Registry to ensure that Ghana attains 100 percent registration coverage. Let’s leave no child out. For every child, let’s ensure an identity,” she added.

This article was originally published on Venturesafrica.com