openIMIS for Unconditional Cash Transfers

The Challenge: Ensuring prompt and smooth distribution of cash to eligible beneficiaries


Cash transfers are a form of social assistance designed to provide people with quick, flexible help, particularly in emergency situations. During the COVID pandemic, some 1.3 billion people worldwide have benefitted from cash transfer schemes which aim to protect their lives and livelihoods. Cash transfers have also become increasingly favored by humanitarian aid agencies as a way to channel assistance to people and households in other types of crises, such as natural disasters. As such, they are an increasingly important instrument for reducing poverty and achieving Sustainable Development Goal 1.

As the use of cash transfers becomes more widespread, there is a need for simple, flexible digital solutions which can streamline the administration of such schemes. Beneficiaries require money quickly, without having to navigate complicated administrative procedures. Payment service providers and payers/scheme operators need to be able to distribute funds efficiently to the right people and to use data to adjust the operations of the scheme, for example by adjusting inclusion criteria to reach more beneficiaries. Paper-based systems are too slow and cumbersome to manage the complex flows of information required to determine beneficiaries’ eligibility, enroll them in the scheme, calculate payments and manage the scheme’s operations. Digitalisation can help to streamline these and other processes.

Not all digital systems are created equal, however. Interoperable digital solutions based on open source technology enable the seamless exchange of data between different information systems, such as those maintained by social security agencies or health insurance scheme operators. This results in smoother, more efficient processes and removes the need to develop expensive custom-made software from scratch.

openIMIS: A versatile open source solution for administering cash transfer schemes

openIMIS is an open source software which supports the administration of social protection schemes. Designed in accordance with industry standards for interoperability, openIMIS offers a standardised but adaptable way to manage information flows related to cash transfer schemes by bringing together beneficiary, payment service provider and payer/scheme operator data into a single platform. openIMIS supports the following core processes:

  • Registration of beneficiary households

  • Registration of payment service providers

  • Definition of payment criteria and generation of payroll

  • Disbursements of payments to beneficiaries

  • Data analysis

For beneficiaries, openIMIS simplifies enrolment procedures, ensures the prompt receipt of cash, and allows payments to be tracked via unique payment numbers. For payment service providers it provides a one-stop solution for managing eligibility determination, enrolment, payment processes and reporting. For the payer/scheme operator it reduces operational costs, allows for better monitoring and analysis of the scheme’s overall operations, and enables information to be shared between different social assistance schemes and operators.

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