Small Big Projects
A reflection on the social impact generated by certain technological developments that, in theory seem simple, but provide a value with great social backdrop.
The CeN has generated 100,000 certificates in 22 states in Mexico, and its deployment will continue to gradually extend to the benefit of Mexican children and families.
Our lives are full of technology. Every minute of the day finds us surrounded by software-driven products that make our lives easier, more comfortable, and sometimes also more superficial. We live in a time where the media is dominated by the technologically extraordinary, by the modern-day new Watsons who are developing what we paradoxically call “artificial “intelligence, made by and for humans.
Everything seems to be reduced to a bit, which, when added to a trillions of other bits, starts to make sense and helps us understand what was previously imperceptible to the eye. We live in a world where sophistication seems to give meaning to everything. Nevertheless, those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the first world, or even in the large capitals of developing countries, often forget that there is life beyond our technological society, narrated and even governed in real time by 140 characters.
That’s why I truly like simple technological projects that connect with the problems in the world we live in and tear down the real wall; the one separating poverty from wealth. Useful technology, sometimes rather basic and, normally out of the spotlight and headlines.
Implementation of the Electronic Birth Certificate: a Big Step for Mexico
This year we have had the privilege of adding our grain of sand to several projects of this type, which, due to their technological simplicity, produce huge social impact. Today I would like to refer to the Electronic Birth Certificate (CeN, for its Spanish initials) project, promoted by the General Directorate of Health Information (DGIS, for its Spanish initials) of Mexico.
According to a UNESCO report published in 2013 (1), some 230 million children worldwide under the age of five have not been registered in their respective countries. 230 millones. It takes only 3 seconds to write, and yet it contains so many daily problems throughout the entire lifetimes of these people that we are barely capable of imagining them. In our Latin American countries alone, about 4 million children were never registered.
But what does the fact that a birth has not been recorded signify in real life? The same UNESCO report opens our eyes: the lack of birth registration represents a truly negative sentence for the person, creating barriers that constrain access to healthcare and education. Later in life, the lack of identification documents can limit the person’s entry into work force or can create insurmountable barriers to accessing social services. Furthermore, they will not be able to vote or obtain a passport, or worse yet, if they are involved in criminal acts during childhood as a result of poverty, they can be prosecuted as adults since they can not prove their age. A simple birth certificate then becomes a true passport to protection. Something so simple, something so basic, can change and even save, both metaphorically and literally, a person’s life.
Developing a project like the Electronic Birth Certificate in Mexico is something that does not appear to be a great challenge technologically. After all, it is a simple process in which technology provides effectiveness, speed, legal security, and the comfort of integrating different agents (hospitals, civil registries). However, if we analyze it from this narrow point of view, without truly understanding the social context of its implications, we do not understand the value of eHealth
After a few months of production and though still in its initial phase of deployment, the CeN in Mexico has generated 100,000 certificates in 22 hospitals in different states of the country, and its deployment will continue to gradually extend to the benefit of Mexican children and families.
“As a citizen, as a Latin American, and as an eHealth professional, I would love for this simple ‘piece of software’ to expand throughout Latin America and – I dare to dream – throughout the world.”
Those of us working in the filed of eHealth are privileged. We are faced with the challenge of making technology useful, which helps us to face real problems. Technology can also greatly help health professionals to make their work easier, more efficient, recording, organizing, and sharing information. We are privileged from the very moment that each button that we put on a screen can contribution to a better society.
Personally, I am proud of the fact that the ideas that we have been working on for all these years to make better eHealth solutions have ended up materializing into a simple electronic birth certificate. If only that “counted”, if only one of the 230 million children born and not registered in the world can benefit, it will have been worth the while.
The Electronic Birth Certificate in Mexico was developed with the ehCOS HDK eHealth technology platfor. More information here.
Note: This post is dedicated to the professionals who day-to-day make ehCOS a better solution, and whose efforts positively impact on the noblest of all “value chains”: saving lives.