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Two woman use a camera to digitalise a physical records book

Digitisation of the Vital Statistics Registry in Tonga

The purpose of the project was to safeguard the historical data and update record keeping practices of Tonga’s vital statistics.

Country: Kingdom of Tonga
Host: Vital Statistical Office, Supreme Court of Tonga
Start date: 07/07/2012
End date: 20/06/2014
Policy areas: Communications
Policy experts: Hilary McEwan
Project manager: Kwadwo Frempong


The Vital Statistical Office at the Supreme Court is responsible for safe keeping and issuing of copies of birth, death and marriage certificates. This is also the registration office for birth and death.

Since 2006 a computerised system for the recording of births, deaths and marriages existed in parallel with a manual system. Some data going back to 1874 had been entered on to the computerised system while other historical records were manual. However, there was a concern that data that had been entered may not be accurate. Furthermore, the manual records were in poor condition and not stored appropriately given the climatic conditions in Tonga. In addition, there was an absence of trained archivists schooled in the maintenance of records. As a result many of the record books were in a state of advanced physical deterioration.

As a result, the digitisation of the civil records in Tonga (Births, Deaths and Marriages), was identified as an important project for Good Governance in the Pacific. The project was the first of its kind in Tonga and is leading the way for other Government Ministries, which recognised the importance of preserving important data records in sustainable and secure IT systems.


The goal of the project was to enable the Government of Tonga to deliver more effective and citizen-centred public services by strengthening the capacity to safeguard historical data stored at the Vital Statistics Office.


The provision of technical assistance has led to the preservation of many historic documents, and the facilitation of access and reference to public records (births and deaths) by citizens and government agencies. This has increased the effectiveness of public service delivery and access to state benefits.

The successful completion of the project benefitted the public, who now have confidence that their important vital records are maintained and preserved securely for their and future generations' use. The project provides for a much faster and more cost efficient service for the Tongan population, and assists in protecting members of the public from identify theft, which unfortunately was on the increase due to the outdated manner in which records were issued and stored.  

For the Government of Tonga, the project provides a better and more accurate capture of population statistics, which will assists in the Government’s planning, review and monitoring of future national projects.

  1. A complete audit of all existing information and records held by the Vital Statistics Registry, including 913 handwritten registers audited and documented electronically
  2. Review and revision of upload process of data to the Registry database undertaken and revised storage options implemented
  3. Digitisation (microfilm conversion, scanning and indexing) of birth, death and marriage registers completed
  4. Comprehensive archiving policies and procedures established
  5. Vital Statistics Preservation and Access Policy drafted
  6. All office staff trained in the processes of basic archival handling, basic conservation, scanning and photographing documents and archival storage.