The ‘Digital social protection – innovation for effectiveness’ webinar took place on 3 October 2019 and was the fourth webinar of the USP2030 webinar series, organised by socialprotection.org and in collaboration with the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG).
Although social protection is not a new topic on the global agenda, the past decades have observed a steady growth in interest and actors involved, opening ways to new forms of delivering programmes and policies tailored to local contexts (i.e. payment tools, MIS). This webinar was dedicated to showcase the latest innovations on social protection and how old practices were adapted to achieve more effective results. The focus was on key trends on the use of technology across the delivery chain (information systems, payment systems, digital approaches to grievances, linkage to digital ID etc.). The webinar also addressed the risks related to these developments.
The event was moderated by Alicia Spengler (Advisor at Sector Initiative Social Protection, GIZ), alongside presenters Tina George Karippacheril (Senior Public Sector Specialist, World Bank), and Fekadu Kassa (IT Solutions Technical Support Service, TSS, Food Security coordination Directorate, Ethiopia).
Integrated Social Information Systems
Tina George preluded the webinar by presenting findings from the World Bank’s forthcoming Sourcebook on the Foundations of Social Protection Delivery Systems, which will be published by the end of 2019.
Given the multidimensional nature of poverty and the variety of needs encountered by their populations, countries offer a myriad of social protection benefits (pensions, cash transfers, subsidies etc) and services (counselling, care and disability services etc) along the life cycle.
Tina George emphasised that while benefits are more likely to adopt a government-to-person payments (GTP) approach, services often require more frequent monitoring and contact from social workers.
Due to the variety of programmes and services, fragmentation of programmes across governmental branches is not surprising. Even though these programmes and services are very diverse, analyses show that most of them pass through similar implementation phases along the delivery chain, illustrated below:
In these four phases, there are two major systems involved:
- Social registries: support the process of identifying potential beneficiaries.
- Beneficiary Operation Systems (also called Management Information Systems - MIS): support beneficiary operations and data management.
Countries are increasingly using social registries as gateways for social protection programmes and other programmes, such as emergency assistance, legal services etc. For instance, the judiciary system can rely on social registries to determine eligibility for legal pro-bono services. This requires data-sharing across agencies and programmes, established in protocols and standards for personal data protection and security.
Moreover, Beneficiary Operational Systems do not operate in a vacuum of a single programme. They operate as integrated within the social protection space, requiring an interoperability and data protection framework that is applicable to whole-of-government and includes foundational technology platforms (e.g. civil registries, identify verifiers, payment systems, etc.)
Following this trend, governments are becoming multisided service platforms for people, encompassing three basic components, which are foundational ecosystem-based technologies for social protection:
- Social registries: Digital platforms that intermediate between people’s needs and conditions on the one side and government programmes on the other side.
- Foundational IDs: Allow the verification that people are who they say they are.
- Payments: How people get payed and can collect their payments.
Building all these components and a truly integrated social information system requires a microservice architecture approach. This way, the system is built module by module, allowing greater understanding of the system’s applicability and opportunities for open source platforms. This microservice architecture approach looks like the figure below:
Integrating social information systems and using these different foundational approaches can have the following benefits:
Tina George concluded her presentation by stressing that all these aspects of integrated information systems are subjected to some core requirements, which are:
- Institutional and legal: Inter-agency coordination; clarity of roles and responsibilities; legal framework for institutional authority, etc.
- Cultural setting: Principle of minimum data collection; data access for specific authorized uses; protocols in place for data protection and privacy of citizens, etc.
- Data integration: Data sharing protocols; interoperability framework; etc.
- Political will: Leadership, commitment and ownership.
Ethiopia’s Integrated Social protection/MIS
Fekadu Kassa presented Ethiopia’s social protection policy and strategy, the digitalisation progress of social protection systems in the country, as well as the challenges experienced so far.
Social protection in Ethiopia has been characterized by lack of coordination and fragmentation in implementation. To address this, a series of steps have been put in place/discussed:
- A national social protection policy has been formulated;
- An overall social protection strategy has been designed;
- A roadmap for the national action plan as well as for the integrated system development has been planned;
- A set of principles such as government leadership, community mobilization and participation, gender parity, transparency, among others, has been addressed;
- A social protection framework in terms of prevention, protection, promotion, and transformation has been discussed.
- And the institutional framework and arrangement is expected to be multisectoral, with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs having the coordination role.
Ethiopia’s conceptual model for Integrated Social Protection/ MIS
Ethiopia’s conceptual model for Integrated Social Protection is a roadmap that connects lower-level infrastructure platforms (e-government, WOREDANET, national ID, vital registration) to the Central Social Protection Management System (CSPMIS). The latter is a warehouse of information linking together social protection sector schemes and is hosted by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The framework also englobes the National Household Registry, programme-specific MIS and their respective stakeholders. See the illustration below:
Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP)
PSNP is a rural safety net that provides cash and/or food to chronically and transitory food insecure households. The programme covers around 8 million people in 8 of Ethiopia’s regions (350 districts in total).
In terms of system development, the programme uses the Payroll and Attendance Sheet System (PASS). PASS has many social protection system modules, such as registration, attendance, payroll, reconciliation, system audit and report. It is partially integrated with the e-payment system and offers a wide area of geographical coverage. Although it has been well-tested for more than 10 years, there are some limitations:
- Standalone system with distributed data, which is difficult to manage.
- Focus on registration, attendance and payment and exclusion of other social protection modules such as case management and grievance issues.
- No standard national id in the system.
- Absence of data information to bring aggregated data from the lower level to the higher level.
Improving the PSNP Integrated Management Information System
The PSNP MIS Project is designed to reach approximately 350 districts across the country and has the following objectives:
- To facilitate systematic management of key operations such as registration, targeting, graduation, public work management, permanent direct support, grievance and so on.
- To objectively evaluate the work in the community and associated benefits for the clients.
- To assure real time (periodical synchronization) consolidation of the transactions taking place at various levels of the pyramid (demography) and to help generate statistical analysis for decision making.
The PSNP MIS is a web application with a component architecture that looks as illustrated below. It follows a business-business model and includes different modules such as client management, targeting and enrolment, and so on. It also has an Application Programming Interface (API) that allows data access and sharing/integration to other systems, making it possible to share information regarding the client, livelihood, payment, attendance, among other components. Moreover, the architecture includes national, regional, and district-level databases. Finally, there are cross-cutting issues/non-functional requirements to address security, scalability, performance, localization and testability issues, among others.
At national- and regional levels, the MIS application is web-based and requires internet connectivity. At district-level, it is lighter and has both an online and offline functionality. The application has three layers: the business layer, the database layer, and the interface/presentation layer. The whole architecture looks as follows:
Fekadu Kassa ended his presentation by reflecting the following challenging issues that have been apparent so far:
- Shortage of IT-skilled manpower. However, universities are educating young people, who are ‘trainable’ manpower.
- Limited data aggregation and real-time data, especially from the lower administration level to the central level.
- Unavailability of access to power in rural area and frequent power interruption in urban cities.
- Absence of a unique id/ digital id/ national id restricts the creation of standards across programmes.
- No personal data security policy, which limits the sharing of biometric data between different systems.
- Absence of data sharing policy, which makes integration of bank systems with programme-based MIS impossible.
- Absence of data capturing standards; absence of data integration standard; and absence of cloud computing policy.
- Government restructuring dynamics/responsibility of standardizing shift from one organization to the other.
The webinar closed with an interesting Q&A session, accessible here.
This blog post is part of the USP2030 Webinar Series, which brings together the summaries of webinars organised by IPC-IG and socialprotection.org on the topic. Please join the USP2030 Webinar Series Online Community if you are interested in following the most recent discussions on the topic. If you have any thoughts on this webinar summary, we would love to hear from you. Please add your comments below!