Each month, our community newsletter puts a spotlight on one person from Asia-Pacific that has gone above and beyond in their efforts to support CRVS programmes, raise awareness of CRVS issues or lead CRVS improvement efforts in their home country. This month we are happy to highlight Mr. Jeff Montgomery from New Zealand.
What is your current title and role?
I am the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages, as well as the General Manager of Services and Access at the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs.
My key role is to lead the provision of life event and identity services which include civil registrations, citizenship (naturalisation), passports and digital identity. My team of 450 staff are based in four New Zealand locations as well as in Sydney, Australia and London, UK.
Can you please share with us a particular experience which highlighted the importance of CRVS to you?
I have had the honour of working closely with colleagues in Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea to strengthen their CRVS systems. This included several visits to these amazing countries and also hosting study groups within New Zealand. Like many countries in our region, Bangladesh and PNG have low death registration levels however both are now experiencing significant improvement. During these COVID times, timely and accurate fact and cause of death information is even more important, and it has be heartening to see civil registration data being used to inform the public.
How are you currently involved in CRVS improvements?
New Zealand has very high levels of birth and death registration, with 95% of registrations being completed online and parents being able to order certificates and access entitlements using our SmartStart app. Last year we moved medical cause of death reporting between doctors, funeral directs and my office online too. Our next innovation is to develop a ‘digital wallet’ which will allow individuals to access and share their key identity documents themselves rather than having to come to us first.
As convener of the Pacific Civil Registrars Network (PCRN), I am working with Gloria Mathenge, CRVS Advisor at the Pacific Community, ESCAP and PLAN International to support the government of Niue in moving to a new, cloud-based civil registration system. This is a significant step towards achieving PCRNs vision of a comprehensive, modern and connected civil registration across the Pacific.
Which advice would you give to others trying to improve CRVS systems?
Be bold and seize opportunities. Our communities are embracing digital technologies and this provides an opportunity for government’s to significantly improve registration rates and also enhance customer experience. The disruption caused by the COVID crisis also provides an opportunity to be bold and try new things. During our recent lockdown we were able to implement, very quickly, weekly publication of death statistics – something we wouldn’t have contemplated in the past.
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