The role of technology in social protection during covid-19

June 20, 2020
5 min read
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Social protection emphasises social inclusion among the needy in society.

Without social protection systems or programs, many lives will be struggling in poverty, experiencing poor health and educational systems, and facing high economic inequalities. Social programs help reduce social vulnerability and contribute to social progress. In an attempt to leave no one behind by 2030 (Agenda 2030), better strategies and programs need to be established to ensure that people who need social protection can access it at any time.

According to UNICEF, two out of three children worldwide are not covered by any form of social protection, leaving them vulnerable to economic hardship and social exclusion. During a global health crisis, like the COVID-19 pandemic, the effects can be massively unbearable. Technology can be highly beneficial in providing social protection services to vulnerable populations. Increasing the coverage, speed, and efficiency of these services would mean building technological systems.

Improving social protection response during COVID-19

Although many low and middle-income countries do not have resilient social protection systems, they can leverage existing technologies to provide social protection support to vulnerable populations at this critical period.

One way technology can help is through the use of information management systems. Linking the IMS to mobile payment service providers is an efficient way to deliver payments rapidly. This can help reduce overcrowding and travel time among the beneficiaries. Also, the registration process to access all kinds of social protection interventions can be simplified with technology. A simple web or mobile platform can be used to quickly register new beneficiaries.  

In all this, social protection agencies need to consider educating the beneficiaries on cybersecurity, fraud, or scams.

Though these suggestions are specific to COVID-19, the systems should be linked to already existing social protection systems to make the system more resilient in the face of epidemics, pandemics, or any unexpected global crisis.

As the delivery of the services will be done through e-digital tools, the providers must ensure that the beneficiaries receive support in languages they understand. For example, using toll-free numbers, automated feedback through SMS, etc.

Social protection systems need to be more than the shock-responsive, poverty-targeted systems of yesteryears. This contributes to enhancing digital inclusion, reducing poverty, and reducing inequalities. With the help of technology, social protection programs can gain increased access and accurate targeting to vulnerable populations.

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