Comprehensive cooperation to Costa Rica´s National Information System and Unique Registry of Beneficiaries (SINIRUBE)
SINIRUBE is an inter-institutional information system that identifies the population living in poverty or vulnerability in Costa Rica. It is a unified registry of beneficiaries of all social programs financed by the State, thus serving as key reference to guide public policy and monitor the effectiveness of social programs. In 2019, the the Government of Costa Rica issued a Guideline instructing all central and decentralized public institutions to use the socioeconomic classification and prioritization given by SINIRUBE to identify the individuals or households to be targeted through selective social welfare programs. As of June 2020, SINIRUBE´s database included a total of 3,529,906 persons and 1,144,219 households, approx. 70% of the country's population. Currently, it is estimated to hold the registration of more than 80% of the national population. In Q3 2020, SINIRUBE reported 75 institutions interoperating with the system, of which 43 consulted and used the information for decision making. The OAS recognized SINIRUBE as the winner of the “Innovation in Smart Government” category of the 2020 Inter-American Awards on Innovation in Effective Public Management. Our practice consists of a “comprehensive cooperation package” to enhance SINIRUBE´s operational capabilities and infrastructure. This support has had a catalytic effect and promoted the mobilization of resources from other UN agencies in 2020, thus reinforcing the JP’s contributions to advance strategic policy and coordinated interventions. The strengthening of SINIRUBE was also key to lessen the impact of COVID-19 on poverty, as it contributed to reach out to female-led households registered within the system to provide them with complementary cash transfers in the context of COVID-19.
The JP´s practice comprises the enhancement of SINIRUBE´s operational capabilities and infrastructure: reference modules have been integrated, technological infrastructure improved and institutional data mining capacities strengthened. Additionally, capacity building on data visualization and analysis of social protection programs is currently underway. To this effect, a comprehensive training is being developed by the Central American Institute of Public Administration (ICAP) for managerial and technical level officials of key public institutions. In line with the LNOB principle, 1) a gender analysis of the information available in SINIRUBE, the creation of a specific dashboard on gender and consultations with relevant institutions on the possibility of developing a specific gender module within SINIRUBE is taking place; 2) a specialized registry of institutionalized (people in care centers or prisons) and homeless persons is being developed; and 3) other specific dashboards focusing on employment and environment are also being supported. UNHCR is also looking into the creation of a specific dashboard on refugees. These dashboards allow the self-management of information by relevant institutions; they can also be adjusted according to specific queries and needs. The fact that SINIRUBE has institutional licenses for the use of the Tableau platform improves the administration, scalability, and sustainability of these data visualization tools. In addition, the improvement of an information module and mobile app to facilitate the data collection of rural, agricultural households is also being supported; this module will be interconnected with SINIRUBE in 2021, thus contributing to improved inter-institutional and multi-level coordination mechanisms to implement the welfare, agro and labor components of the government’s main social protection strategy to combat poverty “Estrategia Puente al Desarrollo (EPD)”, with a gender and environmental perspective. In line with the transformative spirit of the 2030 Agenda, an innovative laboratory has also been put into place within SINIRUBE to identify what would be the best fitted technological solution to improve interaction between beneficiaries and users with the system, thus improving its efficiency. This effort has involved the participation of SINIRUBE and other key institutions (CCSS, IMAS); a survey will also be applied to over 400 direct beneficiaries of social programs in 2021 as part of the laboratory. Strengthening SINIRUBE, as mentioned above, has been particularly helpful also to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on the most vulnerable.
The comprehensive cooperation to SINIRUBE has contributed to greater integration and coordination of social protection institutions, programs and services across sectors and policy areas. It has indirectly also contributed to increased public spending in the context of COVID-19, as the enhancement of its technological infrastructure and capacities contributed to reach out to female-led households registered within the system to provide them with complementary cash transfers. This collaboration has also improved data management systems and promoted digitalization of data/referrals, data-sharing agreements between relevant institutions, improved technological infrastructure/hardware, and participatory processes for system design through an innovation laboratory that is currently taking place. The improvement of SINIRUBE´s operational capabilities has also included the creation of dashboards to maximize the use of the information contained in the system, thus improving the national social protection statistical systems and data, and registration processes. Given SINIRUBE´s key role for the design and optimization of social protection programs, the improvement of its storage, processing, analysis, and operating capacity in turn results in improved social services delivery, access, and quality. One of SINIRUBE's strategic objectives is to direct the actions of public institutions in the allocation of resources dedicated to social programs. This implies reducing the duplication of welfare and social protection benefits to households in poverty, as well as informing the institutions in case of any target populations that are not being served. The strengthening of SINIRUBE directly impacts SDGs 1.2.1. Proportion of population living below the national poverty line, by sex and age, 1.3.1. Proportion of population covered by social protection floors/systems, by sex, distinguishing children, unemployed persons, older persons, persons with disabilities, pregnant women, newborns, work-injury victims and the poor and the vulnerable, 2.3.2. Average income of small-scale food producers, by sex and indigenous status, 5.1.1. Whether or not legal frameworks are in place to promote, enforce and monitor equality and non-discrimination based on sex, 8.5.2. Unemployment rate, by sex, age and persons with disabilities 10.2.1.a. Proportion of people living under 50% of median income, broken down by age, sex and people with disabilities.
The strengthening of SINIRUBE comprises 4 main areas: 1) HARDWARE: financial resources were mobilized to increase SINIRUBE's data storage and processing capacity, in anticipation of the exponential demand for information that social protection policies experienced due to the Covid-19 crisis. Over $70,000 were used for the acquisition of servers for SINIRUBE, which contributed to guarantee the continuity of SINIRUBE´s operation, maintenance, monitoring and surveillance, and control of the data. This collaboration has also had a catalytic effect and promoted additional funding from other UN agencies (UNDP/$150,000 and UNCHR/$50,000) to enhance SINIRUBE´s out-tasking and technical capacities; 2) SOFTWARE: consisting of technical assistance to improve the user interfaces for data analysis. Specifically, the development of 3 modules are being supported: i.) a Beneficiary Referral Module: between April and September 2020, this module was designed and implemented, allowing users to send and/or receive referrals to and from other institutions, and to include and modify data of referred individuals and families. This module also allows to follow up on the status of the referrals and to monitor response times; ii) an information module and mobile app to facilitate the data collection of rural households generating agricultural productivity has also been developed and will be interconnected with SINIRUBE in 2021; iii) a specialized registry of institutionalized individuals (in care centers or prisons) and homeless persons is under development; 3) CAPACITY BUILDING AND DATA MANAGEMENT: SINIRUBE staff have been provided with courses in data mining; specific data visualization dashboards are currently under development, and a comprehensive training for managerial and technical level officials of key public institutions will be conducted by the Central American Institute of Public Administration (ICAP) to promote the intensive use of these strategic visualization tools; thus contributing to guide public policy and decision making; 4) IMPROVED SOCIAL SERVICES DELIVERY/ACCESS/QUALITY through the implementation of an innovation laboratory to identify the best fitted technological solution to improve interaction between beneficiaries and users with the system. The laboratory is intended to become a permanent inter-institutional platform that will allow SINIRUBE to optimize processes and solve future challenges, in communication with the EPD's target population. The different actions included in this comprehensive “cooperation package” have been developed through close and continuous coordination with national counterparts.
The following good practices have been identified: 1.The UN agencies were able to coordinate and promote the necessary institutional arrangements to increase SINIRUBE's installed capacity, which was of great benefit in the context of Costa Rica´s fiscal and COVID-19 crisis. This experience shows that cooperation resources can be strategically oriented to meet a specific conjunctural need, when there is consensus on the relevance of the State policy being supported. The purchase of servers for SINIRUBE not only implied guaranteeing the functioning of the system, but also the possibility of improving the quality of information-based decision making in social protection policies; 2.A needs assessment for strengthening an information system must consider its main components: hardware, software, data and people. The good communication with SINIRUBE and national counterparts made it possible to, clearly and transparently, establish the priority areas in which support was needed. The detailed and joint preparation of the technical requirements for this cooperation has proven essential for optimal implementation and to avoid risks in contracting non-functional technological developments or exceeding the budget or the execution timeframe; 3.The development of a "public innovation laboratory" and the use of non-traditional methodologies to develop technological solutions can result in a good practice in cases where the system's users have heterogeneous profiles of access to technology, connectivity, and usage patterns; 4. Costa Rica´s government has developed multiple strategies for institutions to adopt SINIRUBE as a tool to identify the population in conditions of poverty or vulnerability, to allocate the benefits of social protection programs, and to guide social policy decision-making. To this end, it has strengthened the regulatory framework with guidelines that establish the mandatory use of SINIRUBE for the allocation of certain benefits. SINIRUBE has political support at the highest level; it has integrated other public information systems; and has established homogeneous criteria for the selection of individuals and families as beneficiaries of programs and services aimed at reducing poverty. Different actors, including the UN in Costa Rica, have highlighted and recognized the role of SINIRUBE as a "mechanism for social inclusion of enormous value, transparency and efficiency in the use of public resources for social investment". Lesson learned: Promoting the use of SINIRUBE to implement social protection policies in the current situation of fiscal restrictions has proven complex, since the increased demands for information have in turn implied the need to enhance the system's storage, processing, analysis and operating capacity. The financing of SINIRUBE's regular operations must be reinforced to guarantee the sustainable financing and scalability of this tool.
Close collaboration with relevant institutions and stakeholders; intra- and inter-institutional and inter-agency coordination; coherence, synergies and maximization of resource use; Political and institutional support - essential for implementation; Coherence with the national aspiration of building a sustainable, inclusive, productive and competitive development model (National Development and Public Investment Plan 2019-2022, UNDAF 2018-2022), and to promote strategies to reduce gender gaps or inequalities. Specifically, this practice seeks to accelerate progress towards SDGs 1, 2, 5, 8 and 10; Mobilization of additional resources for SINIRUBE ($150,000 UNDP and $50,000 UNHCR) – this practice has had a catalytic effect and promoted additional funding to enhance SINIRUBE´s technical capacities. As por specific constraints that were overcome: the acquisition of the servers involved their import. This resulted in certain delays in implementation, requiring a minimum of approx. 8 weeks between the manufacture and shipment of the servers to Costa Rica. During implementation, it was detected that technological improvements were required both for the servers and for the reference module to enhance their efficacy. Effective negotiation with the supplier and manufacturer took place to guarantee SINIRUBE with a robust technological architecture that will allow it to scale its services in the future. Improvements to the referral module are also underway.
SINIRUBE has been recognized by OAS at the regional level for its innovative approach and significant progress in integrating all registries from social programs into a common database, enabling better targeting, increased coverage of eligible beneficiaries, reduction of overlaps/duplications of transfers, among other improvements. The successful experience of SINIRUBE may be used as a reference for peer countries, contributing to knowledge sharing and capitalization of good practices. SINIRUBE was created in 2013 and has therefore accumulated numerous lessons learned over the past years. SINIRUBE´s experience can provide useful information and recommendations on how to mitigate risks, eliminate weaknesses, and/or develop strategies to improve performance, effectiveness, and sustainability of similar initiatives. It also meets key criteria to select practices for replication, for example: a) it is of strategic relevance to advance the SDG agenda and LNOB principle; b) it responds to the needs of vulnerable populations and key stakeholders; c) it promotes innovation and efficiency in the use of resources; d) it improves the institutional response to effectively serve target population; e) it has the potential of bringing transformative changes to improve the conditions people living in poverty conditions; f) it is an institutionalized system, thus contributing to its sustainability. SINIRUBE´s model, methodology and enhanced infrastructure and operation capabilities could be replicated in countries with similar political, social and economic stability, coverage of public policies, programs and services, and capacity, commitment, and collaboration of key social actors.
Strengthening of SINIRUBE was crucial to lessen the impact of COVID-19 on poverty, as it contributed to reach out to female-led households registered within the system to provide them with complementary cash transfers in the context of COVID-19. This mobilization of resources to increase SINIRUBE's response was particularly helpful to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on the most vulnerable. SINIRUBE enables to articulate social protection from a multidimensional perspective. As mentioned, it is currently estimated to contain the registration of more than 80% of the national population. This allowed the delivery of monetary transfers such as the Bono Proteger, one of the social protection measures adopted by the government to alleviate the economic impact of Covid-19 on the most vulnerable population, benefiting just under 700 thousand people. In addition, other types of social assistance benefits, such as the Emergency Subsidy, which aided families living in poverty who were not covered by State transfers or by the Bono Proteger, also benefited from SINIRUBE´s data. SINIRUBE has contributed to the digital transformation of the Costa Rican social protection administrative registries, promoting the cross-check of information, and an optimum use of resources through coordinated, automated, cost-efficient, and prompt responses.
SDGS & Targets
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Deliverables & Timeline
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SINIRUBE´s database has national coverage and targets potential and actual beneficiaries of social programs in the whole country.