How technology helps protect children

Primero is supporting case workers in Indonesia and Cambodia

Valerie Crab, Technology for Development, UNICEF East Asia and the Pacific
A mother helps her daughter study online at home in Indonesia
07 July 2022

Ibu Soraya approaches with a warm smile, her bright blue jilbab framing her face. She works with vulnerable children in the Gowa Regency, in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, and has been a Primero user since 2019. “As a case worker in this area, I am often overwhelmed by all the cases that come in a short time,” she says. “It feels as if each time a new case is assessed, another case comes in. In the past, when I was still writing everything down, I sometimes forgot information. When in the field, checking records was also difficult, because the location was often far from the office or home. Primero, especially the mobile app, makes it easier to manage cases. I can check my notes at any time. I can also immediately continue to handle new cases that have been assigned to me via Primero by the coordinator at the office. I gain a lot of time as I can stay out in the field and don’t have to return to the office first to get the files.” In Indonesia Primero was launched mid-2019 and, as of October 2020, has now been operationalized in 32 out of 111 districts with the integrated child welfare services (PKSAI), supporting 72 case workers.

"As a case worker in this area, I am often overwhelmed by all the cases that come in a short time..." 

Ibu Soraya, South Sulawesi, Indonesia

Astrid Gonzaga Dionisio, UNICEF Indonesia Child Protection Specialist, explains that it has been hugely beneficial in the COVID-19 response to have Primero in place and functioning. “Primero is not just a digital tool. It also helps governments think through their protection policies for vulnerable children. It provided UNICEF with an opportunity to support our government partners with the needed changes in protection measures for vulnerable children at the policy level.”

Interoperability between Primero and OSCaR goes live
UNICEF Cambodia/2020/Daravatey Seng

In Cambodia, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation launched the application in April 2020. This Primero rollout was unique. To link government case workers with existing service providers, and to ensure that ongoing services were not disrupted, the technology needed to act as a bridge between actors and clients. Using an integration platform which securely allows different systems to "talk" to each other, the Cambodia teams were able to build this bridge. This means that children now benefit from safe and secure referrals between government and local non-governmental organizations, faster response times and more organizational accountability. During COVID-19, when many front-line case workers are forced to conduct their professional duties remotely, this interoperability means better coordination and fewer children falling through the cracks.

One hundred and fifty Cambodian case workers were trained and are now using Primero. Echoing the opinions of many of the case workers who started using Primero after the launch, Ms. Bieng Chhaily, a social worker from Kampong Thom said she “found Primero to be useful and easy. It allows you to enter comprehensive information of the child into the system directly and you can access the information at any time from your phone, computer or tablet. Now, before entering a new case in Primero I can search whether the case already exists in the system to prevent duplication.” Mr. Ngin Chantola, from the Department of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation in Siem Reap, also mentioned another feature of Primero in Cambodia. “We are now able to find all the information and associated documents of the child in one secure place. We no longer feel worried that documents might get lost or not transferred to the correct partners.”

A social worker in Cambodia working on a case
UNICEF Cambodia/2021/Bunsak But

"Primero lets us work across organizations, while protecting the child’s sensitive data and streamlining work processes."

Suman Khadka, UNICEF Cambodia

According to Suman Khadka, UNICEF Cambodia Child Protection Specialist, “Primero allows us to build better protection systems in Cambodia. This will benefit children during emergencies, but equally important, it will allow us to build back better afterwards. Primero lets us work across organizations, while protecting the child’s sensitive data and streamlining work processes.” While Primero is being used to manage all kinds of child protection cases, the initial focus in Cambodia will be to conduct an initial assessment of all children living in residential care institutions in Cambodia. This is a critical step to ensure no child is lost during the long road to reintegration.

In East Asia, Primero is live in Indonesia with the Ministry of Social Affairs (benefiting 3,100+ children) and Cambodia through the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (benefiting 2,400+ children). Other countries in the region are currently scoping and testing the system.