Imagine walking into a bank to open an account. You need this account to start a business. The friendly banker welcomes you with a warm smile and helps you choose the perfect account for your startup. Now he asks for your ID. Unsure about what to present them, suddenly you realize that you never had any ID. You realize that you have absolutely no way to prove who you are. The smile slides off the banker’s face. He politely tells you that there is nothing more that he can do for you.
No business, because you can’t cash checks. No identification, because you have no birth certificate to obtain any. No proof that you are anything but a ghost.
No way to even prove that you were ever born, except that you are standing there…arguing the obvious fact…with a bureaucrat.
That should turn out well.
Without identification, how will you ever:
- Open an account?
- Cash a check?
- Go to school?
- Buy a house?
- Even apply for a marriage license?
Despite the difficulties that lack of identification poses in daily life, more than 50 million “ghost” children are born every year. Most of these unregistered births come from South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Without identification, these people suffer lack of access to proper healthcare, legal protection, and citizenship rights. As a result, these children are vulnerable to even worse hardships, such as: child labor, human trafficking, military conscription, harassment from law enforcement, and perhaps worst of all, young women are forced to marry adult men and have children while they are still children themselves.
Many of these ghost children die before they ever become adults, never understanding that they had rights as citizens and as human beings.
Why Aren’t These Records Kept if They are So Important?
There are many reasons that these ghost children go without the protection that registered identities bring. In some cases, it’s a simple lack of proper government planning. In others it’s due to a lack of resources. The worst reason these children are denied their rights though, is pure, unadulterated intention to marginalize them and deny their rights; in other words, religious and ethnic prejudice.
There is a Solution
Of course, many would bestow the benefits of citizenship upon their children if it were not so difficult to obtain this right. In developing countries, some parents must travel great distances to register their children with government authorities. This is an immense burden if they lack resources and transportation. However, a new system called iCivil is providing a solution to this problem so that no child will ever be denied their citizenship again.
Created by iCivil Africa, the system works in conjunction with Android mobile devices to instantly record the child’s information at the site of birth and send it via a coded SMS to the appropriate government authorities. The information is then linked to a bubble tag bracelet for the child, which the family keeps. Once the government authorities receive the SMS, they are able to immediately create a record of birth and enter the child’s citizenship status. Parents who lack resources and means to travel no longer need to choose between feeding families this week and traveling long distance to fill out government paperwork.
Free, Secure Access to Birth Records
Once the parent or child is ready to collect their proof of birth, the bracelet/bubble tag can be exchanged for the certificate. This system also provides protection against identity theft because government officials can check the authenticity of identification through a centralized database. The founders of iCivil Africa have dedicated themselves to the important task of helping all newborn babies be registered with their governments through this new digital technology. Based in Burkina Faso, one of the most under-served areas of the world, they are launching this program to ensure that each child born is granted the rights, privileges, and responsibilities that citizenship incurs.
Adama Sawadogo, iCivil’s co-founder, says that the program has already registered over 1,000 children in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital. Sawadogo is hoping to launch the program nationally and then internationally soon to cover other nations who’s births are under-reported. Thanks to iCivil, these children will never have to contemplate what life is like as a ghost.