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Helping the Helpless: Invisible Children

Feature Article | June 16, 2014 by Carmen Choy

Employees at the SAP Innovation Center in South Africa have developed an app that enables parents to register their newborn children, which could improve the lives of 50 million children.

Imagine being born without an official birth certificate or identity. You don’t exist in public records, so you are denied basic rights like access to vital resources like education or healthcare. You have no social security. And as you get older, you will have a hard time finding employment. This is the shocking reality that faces up to 50 percent of all children born in rural areas of Africa today.

Last September, SAP Africa and BIT Emerging Products/SAP Innovation Center in Pretoria took part in a workshop where they discovered birth registration as a huge problem that demanded urgent attention. Their research revealed that each year approximately 50M births are not registered, mostly in developing countries. Some parents may avoid registration simply because they are not informed about its benefits. However, most of the problem is due to accessibility; in a country like Kenya for example, the registration process is manual, time-consuming and difficult. Registration offices are few and far between, hard to reach from many rural areas.

Registering newborns in a simple, timely and reliable way

The good news is, mobile networks are expanding in Africa and the number of mobile phone subscribers is growing exponentially in places like Kenya. With this knowledge, SAP Africa and the BIT Emerging Products team in Pretoria set out to work on a solution that could potentially reach these less accessible rural areas.

According to Jan Eloff, research expert and Elmarie Venter, senior researcher at the SAP Innovation Center in Pretoria, South Africa, “SAP’s challenge was to develop a simple mobile birth registration application prototype to enable a responsible individual, with the help of a mobile phone, to register the birth of any child within 90 days” with the Kenyan Civil Registration Department.

Eloff credits the entire BIT Emerging Products team for their work on the design and development of the Rural Births Registration app prototype. He notes that Elmarie Venter was responsible for customer engagement and use case development, which was pivotal for the success of this engagement.

The Rural Births Registration app allows babies in the hardest-to-reach areas to be registered

The Rural Births Registration app allows babies in the hardest-to-reach areas to be registered

Innovating on the SAP technology stack

From a technology perspective, the Rural Births Registration app is a perfect example of innovation based on the SAP HANA Cloud Platform and Mobile Services. It also includes an analytics component based on SAP HANA.

Not only did the team successfully combine the use of SAP’s cloud, mobile, SAP HANA and analytics technologies in a simple and elegant solution, they also put to use an SAP home-grown innovation called CoSMoS for location and other context-sensitive services that would make the app work more effectively in Africa’s rural parts. Ernest Ngassam, research expert at the SAP Innovation Center Pretoria, is the team lead for CoSMoS.

The goal of the CoSMoS project is to develop an application development framework containing an easy-to-use library of context-sensitive services (e.g. location, traffic, user status) that helps developers quickly build and deploy context-aware applications for a better user experience.

The Rural Births Registration app is built on the SAP technology stack (SAP HANA Cloud Platform, Mobile Services and the CoSMoS framework)

The Rural Births Registration app is built on the SAP technology stack (SAP HANA Cloud Platform, Mobile Services and the CoSMoS framework)

Success at Connected Kenya 2014
Elmarie Venter

Elmarie Venter

The BIT Emerging Products team gave a live demo of the app localized for the Kenyan situation at Connected Kenya, where SAP played a key role as the platinum sponsor. “The presentation on the Rural Births Registration mobile application was a resounding success with a number of enquiries from both government as well as donors including UNICEF” notes Agnes Gathaiya, director of Public Sector, SAP East Africa.

Ernest Ngassam

Ernest Ngassam

Matube Mabatlane from the SAP South Africa Marketing team recalls how the the Rural Births Registration app demo showed a different, unexpected side of SAP: “We were a proud SAP team. [The app] was well received and really showcased SAP as an innovative organisation. Most delegates didn’t expect that from SAP.” Connected Kenya is the leading East African public services and private sector ICT convention that drew 580 attendees this year from both central and county governments across Kenya as well as the Ministers of ICT from Uganda and Rwanda. Andrew Waititu, SAP’s East Africa MD, gave the keynote address. He helped government organizations understand that embracing innovation was the way to be truly strategic, saying that “through innovative technologies, SAP Africa is committed to enabling both central government and the counties to prosper and improve the lives of all citizens” in Kenya.

Jan Elof

Jan Elof

From this event, the SAP team learned that there is a big demand for business innovation leveraging SAP technology with SAP customers. And though they showcased SAP innovations produced in Africa for Africa, they found that there is definitely global appeal for these innovations – the demos shown at Connected Kenya also attracted interest from SAP Latin America.


Related links:

External article on Rural Births Registration app –
Connected Kenya website

Top Image: Shutterstock

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1 comment

  1. Moses Dlamini

    Solving real-world challenges, that is exactly what technology should focus on. Technology must take away some of our challenges and simplify our lives so that we can be able to focus on the things that matters. Great and commendable work by the team. Kudos to you all.

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