The Director-General of the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA), Mr. Mohamed Mubashir Massaquoi and senior staff of the Authority’s IT Department has recently met with a World Bank Team on a Digital County Diagnostic Scooping Mission for the Digital Economy for Africa Project. The World Bank team was led by Kaoru Kimura, a Digital Development Specialist and Peter Wilensky a Senior Economist. The meeting took place at the NCRA’s Headquarters Office on Walpole Street in Freetown.
Kaoru Kimura explained that the main aim of their visit was to meet with key Government officials and stakeholders to take stock of the status of the digital economy in Sierra Leone, the main achievements to date and the on-going initiatives. She said the National Civil Registration is one of the key institutions they identified in their findings on digital economy of Sierra Leone. Ms. Kimura highlighted five pillars that they will consider to do their analysis which includes: Digital Infrastructure, Digital Platform, Digital financial Services, Digital Skills, and Entrepreneurship to create new type of job for youths. She requested for an overview of the NCRA’s technological infrastructure and system, the system NCRA is using, the work of NCRA that goes in line with the five pillars and that of the European Union support to NCRA.
In his response, the Director-General of NCRA, Mr. Mohamed Mubashir Massaquoi, welcomed the world Bank Team and thanked them for the initiative. He spoke of the commitment of the NCRA and the Government of Sierra Leone to work with al Development partners to establish a well-functioning and integrated Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) and Identity Management System in Sierra Leone.
On the reformation of National Civil Registration Authority, the Director General said that prior to the enactment of the law that gave birth to the establishment of the Authority; different institutions were involved in various forms of registration and identity management. the effect of which was that many of the data emanating from Sierra Leone was largely incredible, which cost so much wastage of funds from government and its partners. Integrating all of these institutions under one Authority has reduced cost in operations, and has enhanced the credibility of the data and reliability of the identity management system in Sierra Leone.
Mr. Massaquoi said that the mandate of NCRA is to implement an integrated Civil Registration and Vital Statistics System that will inform good governance and effective service delivery. He stated that the NCRA has achieved that to a large extent with 75% of the country’s population being captured in the NCRA database. He spoke of the ongoing preparations to capture the remaining population and the issuance of national identity cards. The DG informed the World Bank team that NCRA had established offices in all the 16 Districts of Sierra Leone including Bonthe Island. He also revealed that there are plans to establish offices at Chiefdom and Ward levels through the support of the European Union. He also informed the World Bank Team of the ongoing Government Payroll verification and because of its success, the NCRA has been asked to verify all new government employees, which had invariably minimized wastages in wages and salaries.
In his presentation, the Director of ICT Mr. Ahmed Kamara said that the NCRA has a biometric database of 5,073,000 citizens and non-citizen residents in Sierra Leone. He spoke of the challenges of internet connectivity especially in the Provinces. He said the NCRA like other government institutions depends on the Telecommunication Companies for internet service and has established an APN connection with the Orange Mobile Company which is connecting 4000 SIM Cards with a coverage of about 60% to 70% of the entire Country.
For connection between the NCRA Production site, the DR site and the NEC Data center, Mr. Kamara said that the NCRA is using fiber from Sierratel for Interconnectivity/internet service and SALCAB for internet but that there is still gap in the national connectivity coverage.
In terms of Digital Platform, NCRA is currently working on a Blockchain National Digital Identity Platform in Sierra Leone which is the Electronic Know Your Customer (eKYC) Digital Identity platform with support from KIVA. He said there is also another platform which was internally built for payroll verification to support the Government to clean its Payroll system.
Mr. Kamara informed the World Bank team that as part of its institutional mandate, the NCRA is moving towards implementing an integration system, where all the different components of registration are integrated in to one System.
Mr. Genene Bizuneh, leader of the European Union Technical Assistance Team at the NCRA thanked the World Bank Team for the visit. He gave them an overview of the European Union Support to NCRA and the work of the Technical Assistance Team for the past one year. He said the EU is providing support to the NCRA for a three year program period in almost all engagements of NCRA and they have key experts specialized in various aspect of CRVS areas.
“The project is here to help NCRA to set up an integrated CRVS and ID management System,” Mr. Bizuneh maintained.
Similar contributions were also made by the other Senior Management staff of the NCRA with much emphasis on Digital Identity Platform, which is believed to have a potential for vast opportunities in all the five pillars listed by the World Bank team.