Digital Family Card: A society transformed through technology

April 24, 2024

Group photo, left to right: Gulzhan Yesbolova, Aigul Tabergenova, Marzhan Akhmetova, Svetlana Zhakupova, Alena Rebrikova and Batzhan Akmoldina

Photo: UNDP Kazakhstan/Dias Meirmanov

In this era of extensive digitization and technological advances, when every aspect of our lives is experiencing far-reaching changes, new opportunities are emerging to enhance social welfare and promote sustainable societal development. The "Digital Family Card" project, implemented thanks to the joint effort of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of the Population and UNDP, is one such opportunity in Kazakhstan. This initiative has digitized social protection for everyone’s benefit providing immediate access to information about social services and necessary support for those in need. Currently, the "Digital Family Card'' offers over 30 services that individuals can access automatically, without needing to apply.

Such efficiency is thanks to the collaborative efforts of more than 20 government agencies, utilizing over 100 socio-economic indicators to make the system a dependable source for decision-making in social protection. Since the launch of this innovative platform, the public has benefited from more than 2.2 million social services.

The success of the "Digital Family Card" project owes much to the collective efforts of experts from diverse fields, including IT, social protection, economics, and finance. The authors had the opportunity to speak with the women who were pivotal in developing this advanced tool to support Kazakhstani citizens. Tasked with creating methodologies, developing indicators of family well-being, analysing data, and designing IT solutions, these professionals exhibited not just technical expertise but also a profound understanding of the social dimensions of the project. They brought their unique experiences, knowledge, and personal qualities to the table, helping the "Digital Family Card" evolve into a highly effective tool for facilitating significant changes in the lives of many families across Kazakhstan.

Gulzhan Yesbolova, chief project manager at the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection.

Photo: UNDP Kazakhstan/Salamat Ayazbay

Gulzhan Yesbolova, chief project manager at the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, began her career at an aerospace university. One of only two females in the "information technology" department, a field traditionally dominated by men at that time, Gulzhan created and launched her first information system in 2005, which continues to operate successfully. Within the "Digital Family Card" project, Gulzhan took on the role of expert-methodologist, actively contributing to the development of the project's comprehensive operational mechanism. Her motivation to join the project stemmed from a desire to apply digital technology to assist families in need.

What inspired you to join the project?

Gulzhan: The project’s social impact— its goal is to support particularly vulnerable people, including single mothers raising more than three children, families with disabled members, orphaned children, and others at risk. The "Digital Family Card" aims to assist such families who might not always know how to seek help, or what kinds of support are available to them.

Can you share challenges you faced during the project and how you overcame them? 

Gulzhan: The main challenge was understanding and defining in precise terms the variables that should accurately identify families at risk, and also devising a mechanism that complied with Kazakhstan's personal data protection laws.

What long-term impact do you believe this project will have on society? 

Gulzhan: We hope that the proactive nature of providing assistance to families in need, made possible by the implementation of the 'Digital Family Card,' will allow us to significantly reduce the number of families in difficult life situations in Kazakhstan.

Describe a moment within the project that you are especially proud of. 

"It was probably the moment when the entire team began to function seamlessly as a unit. Each member fulfilled his/her role, and as the project was built step-by-step from the ground up—it was like putting together pieces of a puzzle—the "Digital Family Card" truly became the programme it was meant to be from the start."

Alena Rebrikova, chief project manager of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection's project office, also served as a key expert-methodologist on the "Digital Family Card." This project was not her first foray into social initiatives. Previously, Alena had been involved in developing and launching a mandatory social medical insurance project in Kazakhstan. For her, the "Digital Family Card" marked a new chapter in using information technology to enhance societal welfare. In this project, Alena sees not just a chance to help needy families gain access to social support, but also an opportunity to demonstrate that technologies can and should be employed for the benefit of people.

What inspired you to participate in this project?

Alena: The social impact—I was driven by a desire to contribute to the well-being of society and assist those families in need. Additionally, this project was an opportunity to utilize my skills and experience. I was also keen on employing innovative technologies to create a useful and efficient tool for addressing prevailing issues.

What challenges did you meet during the project and how did you address them?

Alena: The challenge lay in determining the optimal methodology for handling family data. The solution involved a comprehensive analysis of the project's requirements, the development of a flexible and effective data management methodology and ensuring the security and confidentiality of the information.

Alena Rebrikova, chief project manager of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection's project office.

Photo: UNDP Kazakhstan/Salamat Ayazbay

What long-term impact do you envision this project having on society?

"The project is poised to significantly impact society by improving the quality of life, fostering social interaction and support and enhancing health and overall societal well-being. I take great pride in my contribution to creating a digital tool that not only solves immediate family issues, but also helps improve life for the broader community."

Marzhan Akhmetova, main project manager at the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection.

Photo: UNDP Kazakhstan/Salamat Ayazbay

Marzhan Akhmetova, another expert-methodologist crucial to the realization of the "Digital Family Card," serves as the main project manager at the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection. With extensive experience in managing IT projects within the social sector, Marzhan tackled the project tasks by using a practical approach so as to maximize the Card's utility for end-users. She played a key role in developing a tool for the automatic intelligent identification of families at risk, which enables the government to proactively offer social support to families facing, or likely to face, difficult circumstances.

What motivated you to take part in this project?

Marzhan: The desire to support families and individuals in challenging life situations. Often, certain groups of people are unable to reach out to the government for social support due to geographic isolation, physical limitations, illiteracy, and other barriers.

What do you believe will be the long-term social impact of this project?

Marzhan: This project is fundamentally a digital transformation of government information systems that holds significant implications for each family and the government at large. As IT transformations continue to evolve and integrate with various state information systems, more data will be incorporated into a unified state digital platform. This platform, built on the latest digital technologies and the methodologies of the "Digital Family Card," will enable more accurate predictions about families' situations based on big data. This is expected to increase the amount of proactive and timely social assistance provided to families across the regions of Kazakhstan, thereby continuously improving the lives of all Kazakhstani citizens.

Can you describe a project achievement that you are particularly proud of?

"Our team undertook an immense volume of work and established 100 criteria for assessing the social status of families. We developed a unique scoring model for calculating social risks and a methodology for implementing a digital model for social service delivery. I am especially proud that the implementation of the "Digital Family Card" model now facilitates the provision of social assistance to various family groups. This project will elevate the social standard of my country in the future, and I am immensely proud of our achievements."

Batzhan Akmoldina, a national expert and mother of five, made an exceptionally unique contribution to the "Digital Family Card" project. With a deep personal understanding of the needs of similar families, Batzhan actively participated in the development and testing of the model, which categorizes families based on their level of well-being. She found it particularly interesting and valuable to witness the creation of a digital product firsthand, identifying and addressing discrepancies in the indicators' matrices alongside IT specialists and methodologists, and observing the step-by-step process in creating the "Digital Family Card."

What drew you to participate in this project?

Batzhan: I was captivated by the innovative concept of creating a unified digital platform for assessing family well-being based on interdepartmental databases.

What challenges did you face during the project, how did you overcome them?

Batzhan: The primary challenge involved aligning diverse indicators that describe various family statuses and quantitative metrics for a comprehensive assessment of their well-being. To address this, our team employed various methodological approaches, including a monetary analogy and the deprivation approach, in order to integrate these indicators into the model through a scoring system.

Batzhan Akmoldina, national expert.

Photo: UNDP Kazakhstan/Salamat Ayazbay

Share a moment from the project that you are especially proud of.

"One such moment was during team discussions on problematic issues, where we used different professional terms and strove to achieve a common understanding among all experts. We created cheat sheets for the terms used to prevent misunderstandings, which helped us reach a common understanding of the project's terminology."

Aigul Tabergenova, national consultant.

Photo: UNDP Kazakhstan/Salamat Ayazbay

Aigul Tabergenova, a national consultant, significantly contributed to the "Digital Family Card" project, leveraging her extensive knowledge and experience in social protection. She was instrumental in developing key indicators that effectively identify individuals in complex life circumstances. Aigul ensured that the system was not only technologically advanced but also sensitive to the nuances of human life, transforming collected data into tangible assistance for those in need. She views the "Digital Family Card" as an essential tool for future social forecasting and believes predictions of social well-being will be possible to formulate years in advance.

What inspired you to join this project?

Aigul: Years ago, while working in the social protection system, my colleagues and I dreamed that one day it would be possible to identify people in difficult life situations using digital technology tools. Participating in this project fulfilled that dream.

What challenges did you meet, how did you address them?

Aigul: The development of criteria revealed that a difficult life situation often comprises many concurrent issues, rooted in a "basic" list of causes that appear in nearly all life scenarios. The primary challenge was developing criteria for proactively detecting forms of abuse and homelessness, as these situations often lack direct evidence that can validate the severity of the circumstances and typically require physical confirmation. For instance, the criterion of "disability" is validated by a medical-social assessment, and restrictions on freedom by a court decision, which is not the case for the previously mentioned criteria.

Could you describe a particularly memorable moment from the project?

"The realization that I was part of a groundbreaking tool came during the first presentation of the "Digital Family Card," when I saw the criteria and scoring model developed by our team in action. I thought to myself, "Wow!" The second time I felt genuine admiration was during the presentation of the "Digital Family Card" to international organizations. It was a moment of pride not only for myself but for my country."

Svetlana Zhakupova, Minister of Labour and Social Protection of the Population of the Republic of Kazakhstan, was at the forefront of conceptualizing the idea of the "Digital Family Card." Ms. Zhakupova led a team of experts in social policy, engineering and in data processing involved in the project, coordinating interactions with government agencies and international organizations to implement the "Digital Family Card" platform. Her leadership in creating this platform contributed to increasing the accessibility of government services for families, streamlining interactions with governmental institutions and improving the overall quality of life for citizens. Today, the "Digital Family Card" serves as the foundation of the National Social Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

What tasks will the further development of the "Digital Family Card" project address? Are there plans to integrate new technologies, such as AI, to enhance its functionality?

Svetlana Zhakupova, Minister of Labour and Social Protection of the Population

Photo: UNDP Kazakhstan/Dias Meirmanov

Svetlana: One of the main tasks of the "Digital Family Card" project is to serve as a source of warnings that would identify any onset of social risks leading to difficult life situations, thus becoming a source of forecasts for the state's social commitments.

The integrated model of social services based on the "Digital Family Card" and a mobile application for social workers across all sectors (through which access to the "Digital Family Card" is provided to obtain necessary information and tasks for working with the family) will allow for a comprehensive approach to social work on a single digital platform, consolidating the efforts of central and local authorities in the fields of education, health care, social protection, family and public welfare. As a result, the "Digital Family Card" will become the tool for a seamless interagency interaction of all involved government agencies.

Regarding the integration of new technologies, it is planned that in the future, the entire process of providing family support measures will be managed by artificial intelligence. The "Digital Family Card" will autonomously identify families in difficult life situations, formulate an individual comprehensive plan for overcoming these situations based on the family's problems, which will include not only a list of necessary government services but also social services from various sectors.

Moreover, the process of providing government measures and services will become transparent, and online monitoring will enable the assessment of the effectiveness not only of the entire social policy but also of specific specialists working with families.

What is your vision for the future of social policy for vulnerable population groups in Kazakhstan? Is there any long-term outcome you are aiming for in this realm that you would consider a major success?

Svetlana: Currently, we are working on the concept of a new social policy aimed at improving the well-being of our citizens. In Kazakhstan, over 40% of the republican budget is allocated to social payments and the provision of government support measures. There are approximately 6,305,069 families in the country, of which 195,000 (about 3%) are in emergency situations. Therefore, questions about increasing the quality of government support and ensuring its effectiveness and targeting citizens remain the main tasks for all social agencies.

To reboot the format of implementing social policy and transmitting it uniformly to the local level, we see the need for the presence of a representative from the central level who would also act as a Unified Operator to consolidate all sources of funding for government measures locally. 

Such a unified operator will maintain a unique personalized record of government support measures directed to a family in the form of payments, services, or charitable assistance. This will provide a real picture of the family's well-being and proactively direct assistance where it is truly needed.

Moreover, such an approach will help identify ineffective payments or payments provided without considering the needs of citizens, which can be redirected to other social initiatives.

As for the vertical structure of the Unified Operator, we envision so-called Family Support Centres that need to be introduced at the district/city level. Such centres will be able to ensure interdepartmental cooperation in lifting the family out of difficult life situations.

Undoubtedly, in all our initiatives, the main benchmarks are the indicators of OECD countries, the achievement of whose social standards -- "No family in an emergency life situation" -- will confirm the high level of our citizens' well-being. We hope that the "Digital Family Card" will help us achieve this goal.


UNDP Kazakhstan assigns high priority to supporting initiatives that advance sustainable development and enhance the quality of life for people and is committed to the principle of "leaving no one behind." The "Digital Family Card" project supports this mission as it aims to reduce social disparities and to ensure equal access to resources for all groups of the population, including the most vulnerable individuals. The impact of the "Digital Family Card" is clearly visible in the transformative changes in the lives of many Kazakhstanis. UNDP Kazakhstan is committed to continuing these efforts, ensuring that innovations and technologies are used to benefit every individual.