Nigeria: Using Virtual Technology to Bridge Birth Registration Gap


By Onche Odeh

Projection by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)’s Generation 2030 Africa Report estimates that by 2030, 136 million births will take place in Nigeria. This dovetails from a 2015 projection that one out of every five births in Africa took take place in Nigeria.

Further projections by the report shows that by 2050, Nigeria alone will account for almost one tenth of all births in the world. In absolute terms, Nigeria is projected to, from 2031 to 2050, add an additional 224 million babies to the population of those born in the country, which amount to 21 percent of the births in Africa and 8 per cent of all births in the world.

This makes Nigeria the country with greatest growth potential in Africa, a feat that may never be achieved because majority of the children born in the country are not registered with the appropriate authority, the Nigeria Population Commission (NPoPC).

In Nigeria, Birth Registration, which is the official recording of the birth of a child through an administrative process of the state evidenced by a birth certificate is still not popular, despite being free with associated advantages.

But the authority in charge and partners are not relenting, as they have adopted a virtual technology aimed at bridging the gap.

Introduced since 2011, RapidSMS, an open source software has moved the country from the slow paper based monitoring system to a biweekly ‘real time’, accessible monitoring system.

How it works

Birth registrars, bi-monthly, use their mobile phones to send short messages (SMS) report to the dashboard through a unique code attached to each person to a toll-free short code number 24453, which spells out C-H-I-L-D on the phone’s keypad. Riding on the support of GSM service providers, the SMS are then analyzed and uploaded into the web site. The output is viewed on the Dashboard through the web portal,

UNICEF Child Protection Specialist, Mrs Sharon Oladiji, while speaking on how the innovation has helped in bridging the gaps in birth registration told Africasti that the dashboard is currently providing gross number of births registered in Nigeria in a steady and consistent manner and in millions.

“On average, the RapidSMS dash board receives and process 6,215 messages/reports monthly. It has become a vital tool for monitoring birth registration cases at the registrar level, as the system allows real-time tracking of local and regional birth registration activities in the 774 LGAs across the country,” Oladiji said.

According to her, it is designed to help identify disparities in service delivery and facilitate prompt, evidence-based responses to areas where birth registration levels are low.

Globally, the births of nearly 230 million children under age five have never been recorded. Asia is home to more than half of these children (59 per cent); another 37 per cent live in sub-Saharan Africa; the remaining 4 per cent are from other regions.

Uganda and kenya are two other countries in Africa where the innovative mobile strategy is being deployed.

In Uganda, the Mobile Vital Records System (VRS), an innovate technology to improve birth registration also has an off-line version that is used to register births and deaths in the absence of internet connectivity. This enables data to be uploaded into the main database as connectivity is restored.

Kenya, on its part is employing innovations in technology to further improve CRVS. Through the Monitoring of Vital Events through Information Technology (MOVE-IT) program, community health workers use mobile phones to report births and deaths.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and Plan International support the MOVE-IT program, leveraging on its deployment that has spiked immunization coverage in Kenya (90%) to increase birth registration.



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