Innovation: How A Bracelet Will Help Fight Child Trafficking In Africa

(CNN) — A new tech start up has set themselves
a massive task: to register all newborn babies
digitally.
iCivil Africa, a company based in Burkina Faso,
has developed a birth certificate system which
involves a smartphone, a bracelet and encoded
text messages.
The company hopes the new system will make
birth certificates in sub-Saharan Africa more
more accessible — an area where more than half
of newborns currently go unregistered.
Globally, an estimated 230 million children under
the age of five are not registered.
Co-founder Adama Sawadogo says he wants to
help Africa’s “ghost children” who lack a legal
identity due to not being registered and may be
extra vulnerable. “It’s a major humanitarian
problem. These ghost children are easy prey for
traffickers.”
“It’s an African problem which nobody is
interested in,” he adds.
In Burkina Faso, proof of the birth must be
supplied on the day the baby is born, and being
able to register the child remotely for those living
in rural areas will help get more people
registered, according to the company.
How iCivil works
The system creates a digital birth certificate
using iCivil’s Android mobile application and a
bracelet with a unique code, called a Prooftag
Bubble Seal, a patented technology produced by
co-founder Francis Bourrieres’ company
Prooftag, based in Toulouse, France.
Once the bracelet is put on the baby, a midwife
scans the code using the app and enters the
newborn’s details on the mobile interface. This is
automatically sent in an encoded text message
via iCivil’s platform to the civil registration
authorities.
The baby is then registered in the system, and a
birth certificate containing the ID code can be
printed and collected from any civil registration
center in the country upon presenting the
bracelet.
The same technology has previously been used
as fraud prevention in French wines and is based
on a unique identifier generated through a so-
called ‘bubble code’.
1,500 newborns were registered on the first trial
using the system at 10 different health centers in
Burkina Faso’s capital city of Ouagadougou
between August 2015 and July 2016.
Children without an identity
While it is still early days for iCivil, their efforts
draw attention to a wider problem.
In Burkina Faso, which has a population of nearly
17 million, 3 million children were unregistered at
the latest census in 2006, with the majority living
in rural areas.
The consequences may range from vulnerability
to traffickers to difficulties attending school and
obtaining a passport.
With the increase in migration in Africa, these
issues are likely to get worse, says Edward
Duffus, Head of Birth Registration Innovation at
Plan International .
“When not registered they have an increased
chance of becoming stateless, which is clearly a
big problem for refugees.”
Other tools being tested
While iCivil’s approach may be unique, their
system is not the only digital tool currently being
tested in Africa, according to Duffus.
Some are run by nonprofit organizations such as
Plan International, which has a pilot program in
Kenya that includes a mobile application.
There are some caveats to consider in the design
of these tools, however, such as tailoring them
to a specific country’s needs, Duffus says.
Some areas are still working to raise awareness
among parents of the importance of registering a
child, for example, and so the demand for these
tools may not be very high in some areas yet.
“Getting your child registered for birth is often
not high on the list of parents’ priorities when
living in poverty, a long way from the registration
center, ” Duffus says.
Big future plans
With the first trial completed, iCivil are now in
talks with Burkina Faso’s government about
implementing the system nationwide at a cost of
$20 million, which would include producing
around 800,000 bracelets a year, Sawadogo
says.
“The government is discussing the project with
financial partners like UNICEF and the World
Health Organization to get the money to put it in
all regions of Burkina Faso.”
They hope more countries will soon follow.
“We want to build this project across the
continent.”
Photos: Global birth registration in numbers
Show Caption  1 of 7

Advertisement
Can a bracelet help fight child trafficking?
The Bubble Bracelet has a unique ID code
which is scanned using the app
Birth registration for children in many rural
villages is almost none existent according to
Plan.
iCivil hopes to soon produce 800,000 bracelets
a year for Burkina Faso

 

 

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