Social Registry#

What is a Social Registry?#

A social registry is a database or system that contains information on households and individuals within a specific population. Its purpose is to provide a centralized and up-to-date source of data that can be used for targeting, planning, and implementing social protection programs. Social registries are designed to enhance fairness and equity in the targeting of social protection programs by introducing systematic and transparent approaches to identify those in need. Social registries are most often used in household-based poverty-targeted social protection programs.

Social registries generally support the initial identification and registration, and needs assessment phases of social protection implementation and delivery, as illustrated below.

One of the first examples of a social registry was developed in the late 1990s for the Bolsa Familia social protection program in Brazil. The Cadastro Único collects and stores information about Brazil’s low-income and vulnerable populations. It is now used as a key tool by the Government, not only for identifying and selecting households for the Bolsa Familia, but also to identify and provide assistance to the most vulnerable Brazilians via 27 other social programs.

Social registries are now used in 50 countries across the world. Examples include Pakistan’s National Social Economic Registry (NSER), Indonesia’s Data Terpadu Kesejahteran Sosial (DTKS) and Colombia’s Sistema de Identificación de Potenciales Beneficiarios de Programas Sociales (Sisbén).

While earlier designs of social registries were static or ‘fixed’ due to the data being collected at a particular period in time through mass registrations, social registries are now increasingly designed to be dynamic, recognising the fluctuating nature of poverty and vulnerability. Social registries which use a dynamic approach to registration through on-demand registration, periodic active outreach, registration at local government offices, integration with civil registries, national identification systems, and other registries can better adjust their social protection programs accordingly and meet the needs of vulnerable populations. Brazil’s Cadastro Único is considered an example of a dynamic registry, while Pakistan’s NSER is currently a static registry.

Operational Functionality of Social Registries#

The specific functions of social registries differ among the countries using them, depending on the type of social protection programs they support, existing management information systems, and design considerations like responsiveness to shocks. Social registries typically have the following functions:

  1. Data collection. Standardized registration questionnaires are used to gather demographic, socio-economic, and household information for a given population. At this stage, individuals or households are referred to as registrants.

  2. Data validation and verification. Applicant data is validated by checking official documents such as identification cards, cross-verification with records contained in other administrative systems, or through local community validation processes.

  3. Information sharing. A complete data overview is developed by bringing together citizen-provided data and integration with systems including National IDs, CRVS and disability registries.

  4. Eligibility assessments. Clear criteria, formats and indicators are applied to support transparent and standardized eligibility assessments for social protection programs. Specific criteria can be used to identify and target vulnerable groups, such as pregnant women, children, or individuals with disabilities. Households can be ranked based on the assessment of their needs and conditions, commonly through the application of a poverty-scoring method such as proxy means testing.

  5. Decentralized eligibility determination. Lists of potentially eligible households or ranked lists of all households can be shared with individual program implementers or decentralized counterparts, and adapted to local contexts and needs.

  6. Ongoing registration and information updates. Social registries are increasingly designed to be dynamic and allow for on-demand registrations and updates, periodic active outreach, registration at local government offices and integration with civil registries, national identification systems, and other registries.

  7. Reporting and analysis. Social registries may have self-contained functions to generate reports and analyze registry data. Or they may be integrated with external data analysis tools and dashboards to inform policy decisions, program planning, and resource allocation.

  8. Architectural components. Comprise of data intake and exchange, data security and protection, management interfaces, interoperability, and necessary ICT infrastructure.

Privacy and confidentiality are key principles of social registries as they hold large amounts of sensitive personal data. The privacy and confidentiality of individuals' data must be protected in accordance with a country’s legal and ethical standards. Social registries must also provide accessible feedback mechanisms (usually via the corresponding social protection program), or through integration with Grievance redress mechanism (GRM) so that registrants can appeal against eligibility decisions or report inaccuracies or errors.

Integration and interoperability of social registries#

Social registries can be used to identify beneficiaries for single or multiple social protection programs. They may also be designed to be interoperable and integrated with other critical systems as part of a broader information systems. Social registry data can be exchanged and coordinated with various government databases such as integrated beneficiary registries, farmer registries, disability registries, health records, education systems, and employment databases. This contributes to more precise targeting, reduces redundancy in data collection, and ensures a unified and efficient delivery of social protection and other public services. However, in certain situations, self-contained social registries may be preferred due to legal and ethical considerations where integration may raise concerns about information security and data privacy.

Social Registry in the OpenSPP platform#

The open-source Social Registry software developed by OpenSPP offers comprehensive identification, registration, and needs assessment functions with the following key features:

  1. Registration. Our Social Registry supports initial en masse registration and surveys. Our data collection system leverages CommCare and can handle a wide range of data types. It can be customized to suit linguistic or cultural requirements, improving the cultural appropriateness, accessibility, and quality of data collected.

  2. Data management and standardization. It is equipped to manage diverse information efficiently, transforming it into standardized formats for integration into various social programs.

  3. Dynamic registration and updates. Our Social Registry can support continuing data updates through continuous on-demand registration or periodic reassessments.

  4. Interoperability with other data source. The OpenSPP platform is particularly strong in its interoperability capabilities. It supports the Digital Convergence Initiative’s CRVS API to interact with CRVS such as OpenCRVS and with national Identity systems to pull data, providing a foundational layer for efficient data management and verification. The OpenSPP team is also active in building a new standard for interoperability between SP-MIS and Social Registry as part of another Digital Convergence Initiative technical working group.

  5. Eligibility assessment. OpenSPP allows for registrant data to be analyzed based on information and indicators captured in the system, such as household size and composition. Poverty calculations can be applied household socioeconomic data, such as Proxy Means Tests. Indicators can be easily updated and income tests modified to ensure that they align with evolving socio-economic contexts and are relevant and accurate.

  6. Privacy and security. The OpenSPP team rigorously upholds data privacy and security standards. Our products are designed to ensure that personal or sensitive data and transactions are protected.

For more information about OpenSPP’s Social Registry contact us through our website.