Richard Chirchir, Principal Digital Technology Specialist, offers some key learning from his experience working with the Government of Uzbekistan and UNICEF on the country’s Social Protection Single Registry.
The Social Protection Single Registry (SPSR) is Uzbekistan’s digital and integrated social protection information system. It was designed in 2018 by the Ministry of Finance with support from UNICEF and the World Bank, and technical assistance from Development Pathways.
So far, it’s the same story as many other government software roll-outs. So why is Uzbekistan’s digital transformation journey unique? Here are nine reasons:
1. Strong political will to make the system work. As a result of reliable collaboration from ministries and agencies and effective management and coordination by the ministry of finance, there has been ample buy-in to the registry from across the board.
2. The required legislation was in place from the start, allowing integration processes to be put in place. A legislative framework was passed by Cabinet of Ministers Resolution on the registry, cybersecurity, and data protection laws at the get-go. This avoided delays later when data would need to be shared across databases.
3. Rapid integration with other government systems. The SPSR was designed with interoperable interfaces, using Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). More than 17 government agencies have been integrated with the SPSR, ranging from the civil registry to banking systems for payments, in the space of just four years. These interfaces are used to gather the data needed to automatically determine the eligibility of applicants, generate funds requests monthly, link to the Ministry of Finance’s Integrated Financial Management System to process funds and link to XALQ bank (a payment service provider) to transfer recipient payrolls, then subsequently receive reconciliation data. In total, the SPSR integrates 60 data points.
4. Full automation of the end-to-end social protection process for multiple social protection interventions – three means-tested social benefits for low-income families: i) childcare benefit for children up to 2 years ii) benefit for families with children up to 14 years, and iii) material support for low-income families). This is undertaken through background IT services and algorithms. Instead of applicants going through Mahalla (community-based committees), the SPSR provides a standardised and unified gateway for processing applications for the social protection schemes at the sub-district level.
5. Integration with government backend financial systems. This is a rare achievement in integrated information system implementations. Departments often work in silos and there are often sensitivities around financial systems that are hard to overcome. Luckily for Uzbekistan, the Ministry of Finance was responsible for both implementation of the Single Registry and management of the integrated financial system, meaning that integration with financial systems was straight-forward.
6.Evidence-based decision making. The system is built with dashboards and analytical reports to track programmes’ key performance indicators. It is also designed with a monitoring and reporting function that analyses and presents various reports for consumption by users. These facilities have led to improved decision making based on data, improvement to the eligibility rules and better management of the social protection programmes.
7. Timely, automated feedback to applicants at every stage in the process using SMS. This saves time for the government and ensures that people are not left in the dark in regard to their applications. The SPSR also manages the complaints and grievance procedure and tracks updates and changes to beneficiaries’ details.
8. Full management of the digital platform by government developers, including management of enhancements. This means that the system is sustainable, with the full skillset in place, following training which was undertaken as part of the transition process.
9. Enhanced provision of complementary services to social protection recipients. The system enables integration between social protection and social services, which means better access to complementary services for social protection recipients. SPSR has also recently incorporated a case management function with the aim of having a true interlinkage between social protection and social services.
As other countries turn to digital solutions to manage their social protection systems, it’s well worth reflecting on Uzbekistan’s model before starting development.
Continue reading: for more about Uzbekistan’s SPSR, read our blog post on the system’s maternity module.