Mobile Vital Records System (MobileVRS)
Supporting birth registration of Ugandan children
Birth registration is compulsory for everyone in Uganda. However, only 30% of children under 5 had their birth registered in 2011. Not only were registration services geographically inaccessible to most Ugandans, but registration fees and other hidden costs (such as transport charges) made it too costly for families to register their children.
Being manual and paper-based, the registration system also had its challenges. It could take several months for a registered child to get a birth certificate, especially if the child was not born in a hospital. This was because of a long trail of paperwork, which moved from the ‘notifier’ who recorded the birth at village level, to the parish chief, to the sub-county or town council for registration, before a birth certificate was subsequently prepared and sent back to the waiting parents through the same administrative structure.
However, all this changed when a new automated system – Mobile Vital Records System (Mobile VRS) – was introduced to ensure that all children in Uganda had their birth registered.
WHAT IS MOBILE VRS?
Mobile VRS was launched by the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) in 2010 with support from UNICEF and Uganda Telecom (UTL). It captures and transmits information on a child’s birth by mobile phone from the community and by a web-based application from hospitals and local governments.
Registration services in hospitals have been placed close to women and children – in maternity and paediatric wards – so that mothers can notify their children’s births immediately after delivery, or when they come back for immunization or health check-ups for their children. Records are then transferred to the web-based application linked to a government database. They are verified by a hospital administrator before an official birth notification is printed, all within minutes. Birth notification forgeries are also minimized by the unique registration number given by Mobile VRS to each record, which can be verified online.
Mobile VRS also allows communities to notify births. Even in remote villages, a mother can simply report a birth to a local government notifier, who then enters the information via mobile phone on the central database.
Another advantage of this technological innovation is that because of the system’s ability to report in real time and transmit birth records from communities, hospitals and districts to the central government, programme managers can use this information to identify and bridge service delivery gaps
We used to do handwritten birth certificates, but these days, everything is computerized.
• Mobile VRS is now used in 135 government and missionary hospitals and in 73 district local governments to notify births and print standardized birth notifications.
• This has contributed to an increase in the national birth registration rates for children under 5 years from 30 per cent in 2011 (Uganda Demographic and Health Survey 2011) to an estimated 69 per cent in December 2016 (Mobile VRS and administrative data).
• Mobile VRS has registered 3.53 million births of children, of which 2.49 million are children under 5 years.
By 2020, at least 90 per cent of children aged 5 years and below will have their birth registered and at least 60 per cent will have their birth certificates.