ISSA Technical Seminar in Baltimore, USA

Bringing death data to life

Death data is of crucial importance to avoid what, in administrative terms, may be referred to as the “living dead” and the “dead living”. The first group are people who have died but are registered as being alive in national records. The second group includes people who are incorrectly or falsely registered as deceased. The International Social Security Association (ISSA) organized a tailored seminar on this issue, focused on enhancing programme integrity, hosted by the United States’ Social Security Administration.

Social security institutions make use of notification of death (death certificates) to either stop the payments of benefits and entitlements or to provide new entitlements such as survivor benefits. Clearly, administrative error or fraud related to the registration of death certificates risks the misallocation of benefits. Finding innovative ways to facilitate and enhance programme integrity is essential for ensuring quality in public services and building and maintaining trust in social security institutions.

Tailored needs, unique responses: ISSA Technical Seminars

As part of the unique tailored services provided for ISSA member institutions and at the request of the United States’ Social Security Administration, the ISSA prepared a Technical Seminar on Enhancing Programme Integrity. The Technical Seminar brought to light the complex issue of death data as well as related topics such as personal identification.

The Seminar, which took place in Baltimore, United States, from 20 to 21 September 2018, offered an opportunity to discuss practical ways to improve processes related to death notification as well as share experiences related to the implementation and management of a unique identifier and a system of authentication.

During two days of dynamic exchanges on relevant practices, international experts and top managers from ISSA member institutions in Canada, Finland, Germany, Ireland, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States discussed challenges and solutions critical for the accurate delivery of social security services.

Technology and innovation for managing death data and persons’ identification

During the first day of the Seminar, focus was placed on the collection, storage, maintenance and exchange of death data. On the second day, discussions centred on the issuance of a unique identifier, where electronic alternatives to the traditional social security card used in many countries were reviewed, as well as authentication.

Discussions addressed ways to make service delivery more efficient and effective through secure electronic identification, including presentations on current and innovative trends and solutions in electronic identity management.

Proof of identity, or ensuring that an individual is who they claim to be, is critical to the exchange of data between social security institutions. The seminar explored new technologies and practical innovations as possible options to provide solutions to the challenges posed by unique identifiers and their authentication. A number of concrete examples and innovative approaches for proof of life were presented and discussed by ISSA member institutions.

ISSA’s proposal of death data exchange

Despite notable differences, institutions face similar concerns, and strong international coordination is essential to prevent and address error and fraud. Due to the greater national and international mobility of workers and retirees, there is an increasing need for agreements between institutions and countries on death data. Moreover, such agreements should be implemented in an effective manner.

The ISSA has launched a project to develop an international approach to reduce the complexity of data exchanges. Led by the ISSA Technical Commission on Information and Communication Technology, the ISSA will propose standards and tools with the aim of improving the effectiveness and efficiency of international data exchange.


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