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De-mystifying data and information management concepts for social protection

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This project provided important evidence and insights on the much debated issue of so-called 'Single’ or ‘Social’ Registries and integrated data and information management for social protection.

Valentina Barca

Areas of expertise

Valentina Barca, Rodolfo Beazley

Based on a Narrative Literature Review of academic and 'grey' literature on the topic and on five in-depth Case Studies (Chile, Indonesia, Turkey, Brazil and South Africa), the research clarifies the current, confused literature on the topic by discussing the advantages of integrated data and information management, defining key terms and discussing different models and considerations for integration. The team also developed a typology to help categorise experiences worldwide and provided step-by-step guidance on best practice integrating information management.

The core resulting publication, Single registries and integrated MISs: De-mystifying data and information management concepts, Barca and Chirchir (2014) has been widely used by the growing number of countries internationally who are embarking on a process of integration. Given its success, and following a successful international workshop with 20+ country representatives that we led, it is currently being updated and used as guidance for an online community on the topic, also managed by OPM.


There is an increasing focus on coordinating and harmonising systems for social protection and as a result, the integration of data and information management across social protection programmes has become a key priority. However, literature on the topic is still scarce and often confused with a tendency to use similar terminology when referring to systems that are radically different in focus, functionality and overall levels of complexity and sophistication. Part of the confusion is due to the fact that, within the Social Protection context, the terms ‘database, ‘registry’ and Management Information System (MIS) are used interchangeably without clear reference to wider systems for integrated information management.

This protect was established to address this knowledge gap by provide clear information and guidance on the architecture needed to integrate data and manage information across Social Protection programmes.

Our approach

Our expert team conducted comprehensive research into Social Protection registries and management information systems. Given the novelty of the topic and the lack of systematic literature, the team structured the research process around the practical experience they had gained implementing integrated MISs in several countries. ‘Grey’ literature was given the same weight as academic literature and interviews with practitioners were essential to complement the analysis. Specific activities we have undertaken include:

  • Performing a Narrative Literature Review of academic and 'grey' literature on the topic;
  • Developing a typology that could be used to classify efforts towards integration of data and information management across different countries;
  • Sampling case study countries based on the typology and conducting in-depth interviews to provide evidence of practical challenges faced setting up integrated data and information management;
  • Discussing challenges and best practice in an international workshop attended by 20+ country representatives, based on research findings;
  • Moderating an online community of practice on the topic (85+ members), hosted by;
  • Hosting webinars on the topic (e.g. one on Kenya’s Single Registry); and,
  • Drafting a Working Paper and Policy Brief based on the findings (two rounds – first in 2014, update in 2016), focusing on recommendations and insights that can be used as a research platform for stakeholders including governments, donors, think tanks and civil society.


This project has helped fill the knowledge gap around integrated data and information management for social protection. By highlighting the factors to consider when implementing a ‘Single’ or ‘Social’ Registry and related Integrated MIS, including step-by-step guidance, our paper acts as a platform to support evidence-based policy-making.

The wide participation in our workshop on the topic and usage of the online community of practice are a testament to this.