The Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Malusi Gigaba and the Statistician-General of South Africa, Dr Pali Lehohla, have launched a project on the digitisation of Home Affairs civil records.
This is quite a significant project and undertaking by the Department of Home Affairs and Statistics South Africa, the two government departments involved in the collection of data related to births, deaths, marriage certificates and other vital records. It is hoped that the digitisation project will lead to a transition from the old systems of record keeping to a more efficient and secure storage method.
“Most of these are records of Births, Marriages, Deaths, ID applications, Naturalisation and Permitting and date back to the late 1800s. Not only does public administration depend on these records, but they have immense historical value.They include, for example, 110 million birth records, which carry records of generations, and can be used to construct family trees.” Malusi Gigaba, South Africa's Minister of Home Affairs
The Department of Home Affairs has said that it already has contributed approximately $700,000 (ZAR 10 million) towards the digitization project and expects to raise more funds for it through South Africa's National Treasury.
Minister Gigaba explained that modernizing the Department of Home Affairs is the first of the five priorities he has set for the Department during his tenure at Home Affairs.
“Modernizing the department means using the most modern, innovative technology and management approaches to fulfil our mandate.”Malusi Gigaba, Minister of South Africa's Home Affairs
The Home Affairs digitization project follows full implementation of the live capture system which has shortened the time from applying for a Smart ID and passport to them being issued
from months of waiting to receiving the documents within a few days of application.
Just as the live capture system has revolutionized the process of applying for vital documents, so the digitisation of birth records will revolutionize the National Identity System, Minister Gigaba added.
Home Affairs is said to have 286 million records, with approximately 90% in paper format. The challenge with paper records is in security and storage, and moving to digital records will help to overcome this. Once the project is done, it is hoped that the paper documents will be held only for legacy and heritage reasons.
Cover Image: Malusi Gigaba, South Africa's Minister of Home Affairs