Two days ago was THE day. The UN and LTO Network shared the big news of their collaboration: the release of the world’s first open-source land registry. This is the largest project ever announced by LTO Network so far and will start this month in Central Asia. For those who have missed it, I have written a full informative review about what LTO Network actually is here: Marco Van den Heuvel's answer to What is LTO Network?
But, how important is this really for the countries they’ll launch a pilot in? To explain that, it’s good to know a little bit about the backstory.
Why is this important?
Land management is central to many of Afghanistan's urban challenges. Land-related urban challenges include land grabbing, inefficient use of land and insecure land tenure in informal settlements.
More than 80 percent of properties in Afghan cities are not registered with municipal or national land authorities, and residents have no formal property documents. Weak land management and insecure property are a serious drag on economic and social development. When land tenure and property rights are unclear, households are reluctant to invest in home improvements, local authorities do not provide services and the private sector does not invest in industry and job creation. Since 2016, UN-Habitat has assisted 12 municipalities in investigating and registering more than 830,000 properties as a first step to ensure secure ownership for city residents and improve urban land management.
In 2019, the UN was looking for blockchain technology for the secure and transparent management of land records as part of a larger reconstruction process in Afghanistan. It is part of the City for All initiative (CFA); a flagship action in the local government's "Urban National Priority Program 2016-2025". The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was also signed to provide a cooperation framework for the development of a digital land registry.
goLandRegistry and an Open Source Verification Tool
LTO Network has previously worked with the UN and will now do so again. LTO Network's "goLandRegistry" solution contains accurate property records, handles at least one million parcels of land individually registered on blockchain and issues certificates of occupancy. Subsequent changes to the occupancy certificate are possible through immutable transactions with Live Contracts (explained here by Rick, the CEO). Property owners can independently prove the authenticity of the certificate through the Open Source blockchain verification tool.
Indeed, LTO Network and UN-OICT will publish the source code for this verification tool in the UN's public GitHub repo, so that every country, province and city can build and design their own document integrity verification tool within a few hours.
By partnering with LTO Network, the United Nations Office for Information and Communications Technology has launched an open-source, highly affordable and blockchain-based tool to facilitate the wide adoption of decentralized cadastres. Using LTOs Live Contracts, data can be automatically distributed to different stakeholders and systems to facilitate (cadastral) transfers, tax automation, lending and other use cases, making them unprecedentedly efficient.
What does the team say about this?
Rick Schmitz, CEO, LTO Network says “We believe the future for land registries lies with hybrid blockchain solutions that allow for optimized and decentralized data exchange between stakeholders in the land registry process without the need for expensive IT-overhauls, simply by linking APIs. LTO Network will be advancing into the realm of DeFi with the introduction of micro finance as our next step in this important project. Land purchasing made possible through micro finance, with LTO Network’s fabric at its base. This makes the purchase of land more accessible for the citizens of Afghanistan. We believe that this will be a huge game changer, while, in addition, we also strive to improve the life of citizens by opening new opportunities. With this project we envision a more accessible and transparent way of ownership.”
Pilots in other countries will start in 2021 to combat these challenges. I’m looking forward to seeing how the United Nations and LTO Network will be able to continue to provide solutions together to make for a better world.