Public Sector Future Podcast: Episode 4 | Seamless services – Digital access to birth certificates

Episode 4 guest speaker, Yolanda Martínez

Seamless services: Digital access to birth certificates

with Yolanda Martínez

Yolanda Martínez has spent over 17 years leading digital transformation initiatives. She’s led the National Digital Strategy of Mexico, the Inter-American Development Bank in Chile, and has been recognized by Apolitical as one of the 20 most influential people in the world in digital government.

Episode 4: Seamless services – Digital access to birth certificates

Public Sector Future

Episode summary

In this episode we speak with Yolanda Martínez about one of the key challenges of successful digital transformation, the ability to work across boundaries and barriers to share and use data, and to better deliver services to people who really need them. We discuss how she worked across federal and regional boundaries while leading the National Digital Strategy of Mexico to give everybody the ability to obtain their right to identity through digital access to birth certificates.

Listen to this episode on any of these podcast platforms:

Granting Mexicans their right to identity through digital access to birth certificates

We are joined by Yolanda Martinez, who led the National Digital Strategy of Mexico.

Martinez worked across federal and regional boundaries in Mexico to give everybody the ability to obtain their right to identity through digital access to birth certificates.

She discusses the key challenges of successful digital transformation, the ability to work across boundaries and barriers to share and use data, and how to better deliver services to people who really need them.


Our work is to make it very easy for people to use, and if they have the need, they will use it. It’s only the best motivation that we can have as a public servant with tech.
– Yolanda Martínez

The problem: Huge barrier to access a basic identity document

“Birth certificates are one of the most common documents requested in order to access all government services in all levels of governments. In order to access a birth certificate, people needed to go to their place of birth,” Martínez explained.

The regulations for obtaining birth certificates were different across 32 federal states in Mexico. Only some states offered this service online.

In Mexico City, the capital of the country, the National Population Registry had an office where people could go and access birth certificates from all states. Mexicans needed to physically go to the capital of the country or their place of birth to access that document.

This applied to Mexicans living in other countries around the world, including millions of Mexicans living in the United States.

Many people did not have the resources to obtain this document, especially if it required international or cross-country travel. The overall process was time consuming and outdated.

The solution: Creating the ability to access a birth certificate from anywhere

The National Digital Strategy was launched in Mexico in 2013 and one of the main objectives was to radically transform how the government delivers services. The priority was to make them available from a single point of access, named gob.mx.

As the most common form of government document, birth certificates were one of the first digital services to launch on gob.mx.

The work: Negotiation behind digital access to birth certificates

Martínez discussed the importance of negotiating on the agreement, making a new strategy on how to approach 32 different governors, and creating empathy for how hard it was for people to access a basic document that was also a constitutional right.

“We put 32 teams to work, collaboratively, in interconnecting the systems – in reaching our agreements. And it’s a service that takes less than one minute to get, but in order to do that, it was a lot of collaborative effort to align a process that should be extremely easy for people to use,” Martínez explained.  

“When you put the political agenda aside, you find people that are extremely committed to serving their state,” Martínez added.

The results: Successful implementation

Digital access to birth certificates has had millions of transactions and is the digital service with the highest citizen satisfaction rate on gob.mx.

“The National Population Registry did good work in standardizing data and interoperability API needed to connect and to validate data,” Martínez explained.

While Mexican citizens can print the document on paper, government agencies can now also use the validation service through gob.mx to avoid needing a printed document altogether.

“It was a huge breakthrough in terms of a service that is so demanded, and that helped us make the case that it doesn’t matter where you are, if we make a service easily accessible, and if we focus our efforts in serving people’s needs, people use the service,” Martínez said.

“Our work is to make it very easy for people to use, and if they have the need, they will use it. It’s only the best motivation that we can have as a public servant with tech,” Martínez added.

Creating a foundation for the future digital services

The act of building an aligned community across the government helps to keep pushing local digital efforts.
“We knew that what we signed was not only for birth certificates, but actually for any data service. So, we did the hard work in terms of setting up a standard that then has sped up other processes and other government services that were very easy to build up on it,” Martínez explained.

Advice for public servants looking to work better across boundaries – where to start

Martínez outlined four steps for those thinking about how they could work better across state and federal boundaries, or between cities and regions in a similar type of project:

  • First, define a strategy with very clear objectives and enablers. It is easy to get lost in requests but having a strategy in place will help you stay on track.
  • Then define your digital design principles. Spend quality time building digital service standards and reusable components, because that becomes the core to guide the work and gives a strong foundation to scale up.  
  • Identify which services are the most demanded. When you work on the most demanded service and you change that experience, you reach a scale and gain attention.
  • Focus on integrating a multidisciplinary team. It is important to have high political support and a team that can help you deliver. That team can be internal, external, or within other government agencies that shares the vision and commitment to use technology to transform how the government serves people.

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