Burkinabe startup iCivil Africa has developed a technology that digitally registers newborns as a way to alleviate the problem of ghost children in the country. The technology leverages a birth certificate system comprised of a smartphone, a bracelet, and encoded text messages designed to make birth certificates in sub-Saharan Africa more accessible.
Speaking to CNN, the company’s co-founder, Adama Sawadogo, said the idea of developing the system was inspired by the need to help Africa’s ghost children gain a legal identity in their respective countries.
“It’s a major humanitarian problem. These ghost children are easy prey for traffickers. It’s an African problem which nobody is interested in,” Sawadogo added.
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In most African countries, mothers in rural areas give birth at home and most kids grow up unregistered with the government. With the new technology however, the company hopes to help mothers register their babies remotely to reduce the number of ghost children in Africa.
Digital Birth Certificate
iCivil Africa creates a digital birth certificate using the company’s Android mobile application and a bracelet that comes with a unique code known as the Prooftag Bubble Seal. The code is a patented technology developed by Francis Bourrieres, one of the company’s co-founders.
When a baby is born, a bracelet is put on their wrist and a midwife scans the code using the mobile app and records the newborn’s details on the app’s interface. The information is then wired automatically in an encoded text message through iCivil’s system to civil registration authorities.
Once the baby’s details are reflected on the government’s registration system, a birth certificate containing the ID code can be printed and collected from any civil registration center in the country upon presenting the bracelet.
During the applications first trial, 1,500 newborns were registered using the system at 10 different health centers in the country’s capital, Ouagadougou, between August 2015 and July 2016.
Ghost Children in Africa
While every child has the right to have a name and nationality, millions of babies remain unregistered all over the world, especially children from poor and marginalized families.
Civil registration is the first legal acknowledgement of a child’s existence as it opens the child to many other fundamental rights, including access to health care, immunization, education, employment, and marriage.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 70 percent of all births went unregistered in 2000, while in North Africa, nearly one-third of births were unregistered, according to UNICEF.