In the eyes of the state, they do not exist - the 230 million children who today have no legal existence worldwide. This is despite the fact that the right to citizenship and personal identity is included in the UN Declaration of Human Rights and is pursued through sub-goals in Agenda 2030. The start-up company iCivil has developed a technical solution that can help solve the problem.
Adama Sawadogo, a computer engineer and specialist in identity theft in Burkina Faso, is the founder of the startup company iCivil. It was in 2010, when he himself started a school in the countryside, that he became aware of the seriousness of the situation with the lack of identity cards. When it turned out that only four percent of the intended school students had papers on their existence, he decided to get involved in the issue.
iCivil has in collaboration with the French data security company Prooftag developed unique ID bracelets for newborns. Each bracelet has a non-copyable, three-dimensional "bubble tag" (see the silver badge on the left in the picture above), which can be compared to a fingerprint. The bubble tag is transcribed into a grid code, which can be scanned by authorized midwives using a mobile application. The information is then sent directly to the population register via encrypted SMS. The technology works completely without an internet connection, which is advantageous because networks and computers are often lacking in rural hospitals. The bracelet design prevents personal data from different infants from being mixed up in hospital environments, but when the child is taken home, the bubble tag can be pulled off and transferred to an ID card.
In today's Burkina Faso, the responsibility for registering newborns lies with the parents. This is problematic in practice, as many lack vehicles and thus the opportunity to travel to the mayor's office to draw up legal identity documents. Some parents also do not realize the importance of registering their children, so that they can, among other things, have access to education, vaccines and later in life for driving licenses and legal employment contracts.
iCivil was launched in 2015 and has since met with great interest from national and international government actors. The solution is currently being discussed at a high level with actors such as the World Bank and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Several African governments have been curious about testing Sawadogo's innovation, but have seen financial difficulties in starting to use the application and the bracelets. Few midwives currently have access to quality electronic hardware and the lack of capital on indebted governments makes it difficult to switch to the use of new technology.
"There are" no children, no school is required
Adama Sawadogo himself claims that his invention is a well-priced and sustainable solution to a problem that today causes sky-high societal costs. At present, it is difficult to estimate the size of Burkina Faso's population and its growth, but one thing is for sure, it is increasing. Nearly half of the population is under the age of 15 and today's 18,7 million people are expected to be 30 million by 2030, according to Burkina Faso authorities. Without knowledge of the existence of these individuals, it is impossible to meet their social needs.
- It struck me that the authorities probably had not seen any need for a school in the village where I established myself, because they did not know the 100 children who lived there, says Sawadogo.
Sawadogo sees its innovation as relevant to both strong and weaker economies. Environmental disasters and wars, but also increased international trade and new transport options make it likely that the earth's population will become more mobile in the future. Therefore, a globally uniform system for secure handling of personal data is needed.
- The responsibility to develop the right collaborations with international organizations and multinational companies lies on our shoulders and this is something I take very seriously, says Sawadogo. iCivil is alone in its knowledge of this technology and the implementation of a global solution for increased personal security is urgent.