Senegal: Birth Certificate By way of text message

By Nicholas Pescod – AfricanBrains

In the African country of Senegal many children are born but never registered. This fact is especially true in the remote Kolda region of southern Senegal, where most newborns go unregistered.

According to allAfrica.com, with the advancement in modern technology and accessibility that could all change. A new mobile phone application has been developed that will allow parents to text the details of a newborn to obtain a birth certificate.

While it is legal to not have a birth certificate, they are required for enrolling children in schools. They are also required to write any necessary exams within the country. However, given the distance between some villages and the nearest civil registration centres, along with poverty and negligence have hindered birth registration.

After Swiss NGO Aide et Action introduced the texting system, parents participating in the pilot phase of the programme registered 20 births in three months from September 2011. The highest birth registration before then was in 2003, when only 12 births were declared.

A pilot program was introduced in Senegal by Swiss NGO, Aide et Action. Between September The parents who participated in the program registered 20 births in three months. The record for birth registration in the region was back in 2003 when only 12 births were declared.

Poverty is so wide spread that most families really don’t have the time to visit to a civil registration centre, which in many cases are miles away.

“A villager working in the fields often doesn’t have money even to organize for baptism. He names his child and returns to the farm – he doesn’t worry about the future,” said Yaya Kandé, the deputy village chief in charge of birth registration.

The Senegalese government has provided village chiefs in Kolda with mobile phones loaded with the birth registration application. Those parents that are unable to afford the cost of travelling to a registration centre are now able to give the information about their newborn to the chief. He then sends it to a government registrar via text.

“This method ensures security of information, as it uses a coding system. The data is centralized and stored in a server, and the authorities can easily follow it up,” said Aide et Action spokeswoman Agnès Pfister.

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Nicholas Pescod attended Iroquois Ridge High School in Oakville, Ontario and graduated in 2007. After deciding to return for an extra semester of high school he attended the University of Guelph in 2008. In 2009 he transferred from University into Centennial College’s journalism program and graduated in 2012. Pescod has been a contributor to the East-Toronto Observer, and he currently contributes to the North Shore News’ entertainment section. While at Centennial College he created Radio Nation, a weekly Internet radio show with a focus on indie music. Since Radio Nation began in November of 2010 there have been over 70 different live guests. In 2011 Pescod received a Global Citizenship award from Centennial for his work on Radio Nation. The show has regular listeners from around the world. Email: nicholas.pescod@africanbrains.org