By Nana Appiah Acquaye, Accra, Ghana
AirtelTigo’s mBirth initiative has been highlighted as an example of the potential benefits of mobile operators and government working together to address a common challenge in a way that could unlock access to basic services for a significant number of Ghanaians.
This was contained in a recent GSMA Intelligence 2017 Report on Ghana captured under the theme: Mobile industry and government together supporting social and economic progress.
The Report acknowledged the central role that can be played by mobile in establishing a robust identity structure across Ghana and noted that proof of identity is a key driver of socio-economic development, enabling individuals to access vital services such as healthcare, education, mobile and financial products, and a range of government subsidies.
“Without an official identity, Ghanaians risk being excluded from society. It is often the most at-risk people in a country (such as children and migrants) who are least likely to have an official identity, compounding the challenge of helping these populations. Mobile is a powerful tool in reaching such demographics,” it stated.
AirtelTigo partnered UNICEF and the Births and Deaths Registry of the Government of Ghana to develop a mobile-enabled birth registration system called mBirth. The partnership aimed to digitize the registration process and make it more efficient and cost effective
According to the Report in Ghana, more than 3 in 10 children are not registered at birth. Even when children are registered, 15% of those below the age of five do not have a birth certificate. Children who are not registered at birth or without identification documents are at risk of being excluded from accessing education, healthcare and other basic services, including a basic mobile phone as mandatory SIM registration requirements are in place, which neither they nor their parents can meet.
After the launch of a pilot program in 11 communities and four hospitals in December, 2015 with AirtelTigo providing technical expertise, mobile connected devices (tablets and laptops) and data bundles to allow birth registration attendants to digitally capture and transmit data, an Android application that can work both online and offline was designed. This new designed application software captured the baby’s name, sex, date of birth and family details and is sent via mobile to a central government database managed by the Births and Deaths Registry. Once received, an automated response allows the registrar to issue a birth certificate on the spot.
Data collected through the paper-based system took up to six months to be registered in the central government database, whereas the mobile registration process achieves the same in less than two minutes. During the three-month trial, AirtelTigo helped facilitate the registration of nearly 8,000 new births.
Following the success of the trial, the initiative has been expanded to include 300 additional communities in a larger pilot covering eight regions. It is expected that by the end of 2017, 670,000 new births will have been registered through the platform, increasing national registration to at least 70%.
The GSMA Intelligence Report further indicated a sharp growth in birth registration in Ghana and currently approaching 70% of population, compared to the Sub-Saharan Africa average of 48% owing to the introduction of AirtelTigo’s mBirth programme in May 2016.