The Department of Home Affairs today unveiled a new project that will see millions of public records being digitised.

The department partnered with Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) to begin the mountainous task of gathering and recording data from over 280 million documents housed at its headquarters in Pretoria that date as far back as 1928.

Most of these records are still in paper format and are ageing due to a constant use and not being in a good state.

“The digitisation project follows a close collaboration between the Department of Home Affairs and Statistics South Africa and signifies a transition from the old systems of record keeping to a modern, efficient and secure storage method. It further signals progressive systems that will ensure speedy retrieval of records for processing applications such as birth certificates, irrespective of location in the country,” the department said.

Records to be digitised include marriage, birth and death certificates, permits, Visas, amendments. The project will first see five million records being digitised. A total of 11.6 million records will be digitised over two years.

“Transactions such as obtaining unabridged birth certificate that took weeks can be done at the click of a button,” said Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba

According to the Home Affairs spokesperson, Mayihlome Tshwete, StatsSA has contributed R10 million towards the project and the department will be approaching National Treasury for more funds to continue the project.

“This partnership is small, but its an important first step.¬†The challenge is to move Home Affairs into the future,” Tshwete said.

Home Affairs said the digitisation project will make it easier and quicker to access old records and streamline service provision for the public. Documents will be physically scanned and uploaded onto a computerised system provided by StatsSA. Each scanner can scan around 1 800 documents per hour.

Image credit: Department of Home Affairs
Image credit: Department of Home Affairs

Gigaba said births and amended records for persons below 18 years will be prioritised at the beginning of the process.

The original documents will be kept for legacy and heritage purposes.