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This section outlines official Press and Media Statements issued by the Ministry of Information and Communications in addition to Press Releases from the Prime Minister's Office and other Government Ministries and Departments.

National Civil Registry Office digitises vital records

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13 May 2013, The Ministry of Justice is responsible for the national civil registry of all records pertaining to births, deaths and marriages. There are 2 main responsibilities of the National Civil Registry in this capacity 1) that all relevant persons are legally obliged to register, births, deaths and marriages at the Registrar General's Office in accordance with the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages Act and 2) that the Registrar General's Office issues to all relevant persons certified true copies of births, death and marriage certificates.

In this time of increase overseas travel and civil participation, providing reliable and accurate identity records is extremely important. The Ministry has over the last few years tried to upgrade this service to members of the public by providing a faster, more efficient and secure service. This has been done by trying to place all Tonga's national data relating to births, deaths and marriages on a special computer data storage programme. This process involves 2 steps 1) inputting the relevant original data information which are kept on A3 Book Registers onto the computer and 2) registering births, deaths and marriages as they occur now onto a computer database.

Computer Software for recording data

This project will feed into another initiative started by the Ministry in 2006 where a new software system was developed by the Ministry together with volunteers from the Australian Youth Ambassadors Project (AusTraining) to enable registration to be uploaded directly onto the computer. This computer registration is also used in the outer islands Vava'u and Ha'apai and links directly to the computer server in the main Registry office in Nuku'alofa. This system has been operational and recording births, deaths and marriage data from mid - 2011 up until today.

The oldest Registers holding original records of births date back to 1874. The original Registers of births are used to input the data into the computer programme and if there are any problems in the computer print-out, for example an error on the date of birth or the name of the applicant - an RG officer will access the original Physical Book Register to cross reference this with the computer data. Unfortunately, some of that data is already lost beyond recall as many of the record books are in a many of the record books are in a state of advanced deterioration and are not stored appropriately given the climatic conditions in Tonga. In addition, Tonga lacks trained archivists who are schooled in the maintenance of records. As a result many of the record books are in a state of advance physical deterioration.

The Ministry of Justice has begun a project to try and preserve these original birth records of Tongans for their historical value, security, accurateness and privacy of individuals and at the same time facilitate and speed up the process for the issuance of Birth, Death and Marriage certificates for the Registrar General clients.

The project is jointly funded by the Government of Tonga (The Ministry of Justice) together with the Commonwealth Secretariat, (Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation (CFTC)).

The CFTC have now engaged as expert archivist/librarian from the UK, Ms Fiona Bolt, who has been attached to the Ministry of Justice, Registrar General's Office to manage and implement this project since July, 2012.

At the end of this project the outcomes have been anticipated as follows:-

  • A comprehensive review and cataloguing of all current Births, Deaths and Marriage records.
  • Digitization/Scanning of all records and uploading data completed.
  • Key Registrar General staff trained in archiving, scanning, tagging process management.
  • Comprehensive archive policies and procedures established.
In essence, the main benefits of this project for all Tongans are that their personal records will be securely and digitally stored for the future and easily accessible by the relevant individual whenever required. There is still much work to be done on the national registry system of the Kingdom including its legislation, but this project will fulfil the most immediate problem facing the Registry - that is the preservation of birth, death and marriage records which are in an advanced state of decay.

ENDS

Issued by the: Ministry of Justice, Nuku'alofa, 18 April, 2013, 2013. Tel: (676) 25 618.

 
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