Using RapidPro and IVR to improve birth registration in Cambodia

Launched: July 2016

This story is based on an article written by UNICEF Cambodia on a pilot project using simple mobile technology powered by RapidPro and Interactive Voice Response to collect real-time information on supplies for birth registration. For more information on the project please contact Mr. Tomas Jensen, Chief Community Development at UNICEF Cambodia.


Birth registration is the first of all civil registration acts and it is through it that a child legally acquires an identity. This is an inalienable right enshrined in the Convention of the Rights of the Child and one that provides considerable protection to a child.

In Cambodia, according to the latest Demographic and Health Survey about 25% of all children under 5 years of age do not have a valid birth certificate. A previous evaluation from UNICEF’s Village Record Book pilot revealed that 8% of the families interviewed were not able to register their children due to lack of supplies, particularly registration forms and registration books.

To help address this issue, UNICEF Cambodia agreed to support the creation of a direct reporting system from the commune to the central level – Department of Civil Registration, General Department of Identification (GDI) with information being shared with the relevant districts and provinces. The underlying assumption for the project is that by collecting regular, timely information about the availability of forms and books at the commune, both the district and the provincial level services would be able to prevent the disruption of the civil registration services by timely preparing restock.

Use of RapidPro and IVR

UNICEF Cambodia, together with GDI set up a pilot IVR platform using a combination of RapidPro and the cloud communication channels Twilio and Nexmo. It should be noted that these channels were used to speed up the deployment of the pilot project. For a large scale deployment the office may need to look for local service providers.

The IVR platform works as follows:

  • The commune clerks provide reports on a monthly basis, either by responding to the automated monthly calls initiated by RapidPro or by calling the system at their convenience.
  • The Interactive Voice Response component which runs over Twilio handles the interaction between the commune clerks and RapidPro.
  • RapidPro receives and saves the responses, analyzes them and provides a response back to the clerks over Twilio.
  • When RapidPro identifies a commune reporting a number of forms and/or books below a certain threshold set by GDI, it will automatically notify the district level by SMS and the province level and GDI by email.
  • The district officers in charge of re-supplying forms and books receive SMS notifications on communes that need restocking. SMS notifications are handled by Nexmo.

Preliminary results

The pilot activities started in April in Kratie province and in May in Siem Reap province. Training has taken place in both provinces and 51 Provincial and District authorities, as well as 146 commune clerks have received training on this new system. In May, the first calls post training took place and all commune clerks reported on the existing stock of forms and books for all Civil Registration acts (e.g. for birth, marriage and death).

The IVR reporting system is already providing useful information on the availability of registration forms and books at the communes. However, more data needs to be collected over the coming months to assess the performance of the system, and to identify bottlenecks and potential improvements to be made in the supply chain. The continuation of the pilot will also help understand the potential of scaling up the system nationwide.