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The ability of a country to care for its people and respond to their lifecycle needs depends on its ability to identify the real beneficiaries those who are in need, enroll them, provide tailored benefits and services, and follow up to cater to evolving circumstances. Many countries offer a myriad social benefits and services to meet the diverse needs of their populations. Examples of social programs include cash transfers (conditional or unconditional) or in-kind benefits, social services for children, youth, parents, or the elderly; as well as labor and activation programs.
Although these programs may seem quite different, they usually pass through common phases along the delivery chain, including: determining potential eligibility, via outreach, application and registration, assessment of needs and conditions, taking decisions on enrollment and the benefits or service package; and carrying out the implementation cycle of transactions (payments or service provision) and active case management (including counseling, conditionality monitoring, accompanying measures, grievance redress). Governments also need to be able to monitor programme impacts and track and adequately plan expenditure. All of these actions require dynamic and real-time data and information exchange if the goal of universal coverage is to be achieved.
It is a paradox that despite the good intent and legislative backing, an estimated four billion people or around 55 per cent of the global population do not profit from a single social safety net programme. This scenario mounts challenges on governments when more people are pushed to poverty because of an unforeseen pandemic like Covid-19 or due to geopolitical instability and climate change. In this backdrop, a vanilla social registry can’t deliver. Governments need a dynamic database that captures the changing demographics and economic status of individuals and families.
Developing a digital and integrated information system is a crucial step in building a national social protection system. It enables the flow and management of information within the social protection sector and between social protection and other sectors such as education, health, agriculture, humanitarian and disaster risk management.
Social Registries are information systems that support outreach, intake, registration, and determination of potential eligibility for one or more social programs. They have both a social policy role, as inclusion systems, and an operational role, as information systems. Social Registries can also serve as “dynamic” gateways for inclusion of the poor and vulnerable, meaning that access to registration is open and continuous, usually with on-demand applications combined with active outreach to vulnerable populations. This dynamism is closely related to the human rights agenda and the realization of universal social protection, whereby anyone who needs social protection can access it at any time. Social protection is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. It is key to securing other economic and social rights, in particular the right to an adequate standard of living, which includes the rights to food and to adequate housing. The universal right to social protection must be built into national policies and laws and global and regional frameworks in order to reduce poverty, inequality and social exclusion and to allow such protection to act as an automatic social and economic stabilizer. It is also clearly mentioned in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1.3 “Implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all by 2030 should achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable.”
Governments across the globe face major challenges in the identification of genuine beneficiaries as many databases are in silos with lots of anomalies, and duplication without updated information.
Harmonizing expensive steps, such as application and registration, can generate efficiencies and cost savings when multiple programs use an Integrated Social Registry – even if they each use program-specific eligibility criteria. Data validation and verification, oversight and controls, and interoperability can also boost information quality and accuracy.
In addition to supporting registration and eligibility functions, the data produced by Social Registries are also used by countries for other purposes, such as calculating benefit levels, validating information collected through other methods or sources, assessing potential demand for interventions, planning and costing interventions depending on projected coverage rates, monitoring and evaluation, or other analytics purposes.
Gambia, an African nation, has shown the way on how social registry can be tapped to deliver benefits ‘real time’ to the poor. Its social registry has been built through proxy means test wherein scores are calculated for each household. Then, households are placed under categories vis-à-vis their PMT (Proxy Means Testing) scores. Also, the solution is integrated with Central Voter Registration System (CVRS) for dynamic inclusion. Gambia’s CSM developed social registry offers the following features:
CSM has developed two such robust social registry information system - golden database of citizens for the state of Rajasthan and Odisha. Jan-Aadhaar social registry platform of Rajasthan unifies the entire service delivery ecosystem of the state with a single-card, single-number, single-identity philosophy by reducing multiple channels of government. Citizens could easily avail of various services like downloading Jan-Aadhaar eCard, the status of Jan-Aadhaar enrolment and card, the status of DBT services availed etc. The effectiveness of the social registry is well proven by its universal acceptance and usage with the enrollment of 19 Million 45 families and more than 73 million members and 1 billion transactions of amount more than 546 billion to date.
Similarly, Odisha ‘s social protection delivery platform (SPDP) or social registry would enable the government to monitor the well-being of beneficiaries of several state and central welfare schemes while weeding out ineligible claimants or ghost beneficiaries. The agriculture and farmers’ empowerment department which is preparing a farmers’ database for the social registry has devised an anomaly detection algorithm to detect any fraud or data anomaly such as during buying seeds for paddy and selling oilseeds. A detailed SOP with a 3-tier verification has been created that would ensure the collection of farmers’ number, their gender, marital status, mobile number, residential address and bank account details for Aadhaar authentication, LGD mapping, bank account verification and Aadhaar lookup with national payment corporation of India. While creating the social registry the government is taking due care of data privacy, as well.
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