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Civil Registries in Eastern Caribbean urged to digitalize records

Civil Registries in Eastern Caribbean urged to digitalize records

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Civil registries in the Eastern Caribbean have been urged to digitalize their records, through the Organization of American States Civil Identity Programme of the Americas (PUICA).{{more}}

A regional workshop on Civil Registry Databases and Interoperability was held last Thursday at the Sunset Shores Hotel, for representatives of different countries throughout the Caribbean.

Coordinator of the Universal Civil Identity Programme in the Americas Steven Griner explained that PUICA was designed to increase the transparency, accuracy and efficiency of civil registries and provide a secure depository for public records.

“The OAS Civil Identity Programme of the Americas – PUICA…has been mandated to strengthen state institutions that are responsible for the legal recognition of persons both to promote civil university identity and to ensure greater reliability of civil records,” Griner stated.

“In this regard, we work closely with authorities to reach traditionally marginalized communities and to strengthen civil registry institutions, both technologically and administratively. PUICA projects help provide birth certificates, issue national identification cards, correct erroneous information and reconstruct documentation destroyed by war or acts of nature”.

The project coordinator observed that since 2010, the project has been implemented in a total of 17 member states of Latin America and the Caribbean, in five strategic areas.

He also noted that each area responds to one or more of the specific measures that was included in the initial 2008 draft of the programme.

Additionally, Griner revealed that in 2010, the Eastern Caribbean was the only set of countries in the Americas, which was yet to computerize its civil registry records.

“Most registries now register births in real time and can print a certificate with the click of a mouse. The oversized registry books, original signatures, and manual procedures had become a thing of the past in the rest of the world. It is vital that the Eastern Caribbean catch up and adopt this technology in its everyday tasks,” the project coordinator said.

Through the project, it is envisaged that not only will there be the facilitation of free movement and of labour and travel in the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) but the project should also aid in the elimination of practices such as counterfeit documents and identity theft.

“Civil identity is not a privilege. It is a basic human right. A child without a birth certificate is less likely to receive an education and health care and more likely to be neglected and exploited. An adult with inadequate identification or documentation cannot provide for her family…a Government without accurate vital statistics cannot implement its programmes designed to promote economic growth, health, education, border security or even guarantee fair and civil elections,” Griner declared.

La Celia Prince, permanent representative of St Vincent and the Grenadines to the OAS highlighted to participants, the success of the project so far.

“Through…PUICA, the department for effective public management of the OAS has invested nearly half a million dollars during the last three years, to digitalize an estimated 2.5 million birth certificates from Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines,” Prince revealed.

The ambassador noted that the project continues to index a variety of certificates in the various countries, which will make confirming a person’s identity very easy.

“Confirming a citizen’s identity will soon be done with the click of a mouse,” she said.

Furthermore, Prince noted that the efforts of the OAS and its member states have borne fruit, where the United Nations Chilren’s Fund (UNICEF) has recorded that under-registration of children in the Americas between birth and five years old, has dropped from 18 per cent in 2008 to seven per cent in 2012.

Registrar at the High Court Tamara Gibson-Marks commended the effort of the OAS in initiating the project in the region.

Because of the project, Gibson-Marks noted that the civil registry in St Vincent and the Grenadines is now able to review cropped images and has the ability to crop and process birth, death and marriage records.

“From September to December of 2011 and June to December of 2012, the project scanned a full 100 per cent of 468 ledgers at our civil registry. A total of 120,320 pages containing 614,200 birth, death, marriage, adoption and legitimization records,” Gibson-Marks said.

“By December 24, 2011, it had scanned and cropped 93 per cent of the scanned records and initiated data entry”.

In his remarks, Griner stated that it is the responsibility of the countries to maintain the tools of the project. He also stated that if the project is not maintained, then the efforts of the OAS would have been in vain.(BK)

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