South Africa's Department of Home Affairs (Interior) will digitise 286 million records, including birth certificates, which it maintains through a digitisation project launched in partnership with Statistics South Africa.

Birth certificates will be prioritised, followed by other documents, said Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba at the launch here Wednesday.

The digitisation project, converting information into a digital format process, follows close collaboration between the Department of Home Affairs and Statistics South Africa and marks a transition from the old systems of record-keeping to a modern, efficient and secure storage method.

Gigaba said digitising records would make them more easily accessible. He added that modernising the department meant using the most modern, innovative technology and management approaches to fulfill the department's mandate.

"It means taking the inconvenience away from our clients. It means moving from a paper-based department with all the accompanying inefficiencies, slow processes, security risks and opportunities for corruption, to a digital department which is efficient, fast and secure," he said.

Gigaba said the space for housing documents is scarce and expensive. "South Africans have already seen a glimpse of this modern, digital future and experienced its benefits when applying for Smart ID cards and passports in modernised offices through eHomeAffairs. South Africans were used to waiting months for these documents only a few years ago, and now get them in a few days," he said.

The Department of Home Affairs has 286 million records, mostly records of births, marriages, deaths, identity document (ID) applications, naturalisation and permitting. These records date back to the late 1800 and include 110 million birth records, which carry records of generations that can be used to construct family trees.