The launch of Kenya’s Single Registry scheme marks a major step forward in the management and monitoring of social protection in low- and middle-income countries, writes Richard Chirchir.
The Registry has enabled the government of Kenya to link together the Management Information Systems (MISs) of five social security schemes (the Old Age Grant, Disability Benefit, Orphans and Vulnerable Children’s Cash Transfer, Hunger Safety Net programme, and World Food Programme’s (WFP) Cash for Assets scheme). Furthermore, the Single Registry is linked to the National Registration database, so that programme beneficiaries can be clearly identified by their national ID number.
The Single Registry now enables the National Social Protection Secretariat – based in the Ministry of Labour and East African Affairs – to access information on all households receiving social security. This enables them to monitor: beneficiaries enrolled against the government’s expansion plan for the national social security system, the number and type of programme each household is benefitting from, the accuracy of beneficiary details, timelines of payments, complaints resolved within established time frames, and consolidated programme costs. Importantly, the Single Registry can capture information on schemes that are designed very differently, including the use of distinct targeting mechanisms.
The development of the Single Registry is a core component of the WFP’s Complementarity Initiative in Kenya. Over the past five years, Development Pathways has been contracted by, initially, DFID and subsequently, WFP to work with the National Social Protection Secretariat to build the Single Registry. It has involved:
- Upgrading four of the individual programme-level MISs to robust and scalable web-enabled infrastructure and platforms;
- Enabling the individual MISs to share innovative common services;
- Building an automated electronic validation and query service between the Single Registry and the Integrated Population Registration Service (which contains details on 30 million individuals);
- Configuring the automatic replication of data between programme level MISs and the Single Registry;
- Establishing innovative data visualization tools to engage stakeholders through illustrative dashboards; and,
- Developing a geo-spatial mapping interface and a query based reporting framework.
Kenya’s Single Registry is very different in design when compared to earlier attempts in other countries to develop unified databases. Kenya’s system is essentially a warehouse, holding information on all the beneficiaries of the national social protection system, and is continuously updated as individual programme MISs update their information on beneficiaries. For example, it enables the Social Protection Secretariat to know when households have entered or exited schemes, how many people they have paid each month, whether there are complaints about the system and, potentially, update any changes in household composition. However, the information produced depends on the quality of the data entered. The next stage in the development of the Single Registry will be to ensure that all programme MISs can be managed at district level – through a web-based system – and that information on beneficiaries can be updated as close to real time as possible. The broader plan is to also bring on board other components of the social protection system such as the National Social Health Insurance scheme and the National Social Security Fund (NSSF).
The earlier attempts to design Single Registries in other countries have been conceptualised very differently, focusing on developing “single targeting mechanisms” for all national social protection schemes, rather than holding information on beneficiaries within a single warehouse. These Single Registries list households in the country, who are given a score estimating their level of wellbeing. Social protection schemes then extract from the targeting database a list of the “poorest” as their beneficiaries. In spite of these, these systems exhibit a range of weaknesses:
- They do not hold information on the programmes accessed by beneficiaries, so are not useful for monitoring.
- Potential beneficiary households living in poverty may be excluded from benefits, because there is effectively one entry point (i.e. one registration process and one targeting approach).
- The databases are rarely updated (often no more than every five years or more). Given that household incomes and consumption change significantly in very short periods of time, this means that single targeting mechanisms quickly become outdated.
- In countries that have programmes using very different targeting approaches, the single targeting mechanism is only useful for certain schemes that target the poorest households. So, for example, Brazil’s well-known Cadastro Unico is not used by the country’s largest social security schemes, which are more universal in their targeting, means-test individuals rather than households, or are contributory.
By not following this simple approach, Kenya’s Single Registry has incorporated many other features (and could, easily, incorporate a targeting database if that were required). Furthermore, if the individual social security programmes are designed and implemented well, the Registry will be highly dynamic, with regular updating. Importantly, it does not oblige Kenya to adopt only one targeting mechanism, but enables the government to use different targeting approaches for schemes that have very distinct objectives. Other countries are also beginning to adopt this approach: Development Pathways is now supporting the governments of Rwanda and Uganda in developing their own Single Registries. We hope that Kenya can become a beacon to many other countries.
Want to know more? Please join us on 29th March at 2pm UTC for our webinar on: Kenya’s Single Registry: A tool for social protection, planning, co-ordination and monitoring. we look forward to seeing you there.
Richard Chirchir is the Senior MIS Specialist at Development Pathways and an experienced Management Information Systems (MIS) expert with over 14 years of relevant professional experience. He has devoted most of his career to the design and development of multi-platform ICT solutions. He has also co-authored two publications on MISs used in developing countries.