United Nations and LTO Network release world’s first open-source land registry

Main Published on: Dec 24, 2020 Last updated: Dec 27, 2020

The time has finally come to announce our latest (and biggest) project to date! The United Nations Office of Information and Communication Technology (UNOICT) and UN-Habitat have officially released the ‘long-awaited news’ about our collaborative endeavor; building an open-source land registry solution. The software will make its debut in December 2020 in Central Asia.

In 2019 the UN was looking to blockchain technology for secure and transparent land records management as part of a larger rebuilding process in Afghanistan. It’s a part of the “City for All” (CFA) initiative; a flagship action in the local government’s ‘Urban National Priority Programme 2016-2025’.

Funded by USAID and the EU, with technical assistance from UN-Habitat, the “City for All” initiative is underpinned by the fact that harnessing the country’s cities for state building and peacebuilding requires three fundamental components:

1.       Effective land management with clear land rights, restrictions, and responsibilities

2.       Strategic urban planning to establish a common vision and guide public investments for an inclusive and prosperous urban future

3.       Improved municipal finance and governance, citizen engagement and representation

In September 2019, UNOICT and UN-Habitat signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to provide a framework of cooperation for the development of a digital land registry using emerging technology tools in support of the Government’s CFA programme. The two UN entities later collaborated with the LTO Network to leverage blockchain technology to support the survey, registration and documentation of properties in Afghan municipalities.

Rick Schmitz, CEO LTO Network - “LTO Network is proud to facilitate land registry operations for countries around the world through the open source boiler plate that we intensively developed for the past year in collaboration with UN-Habitat and UN-OICT teams.”

Open Source

LTO Network and UN-OICT will publish the source code for the verification tool in the UN’s public GitHub repo, allowing every country, province and city to build and style their own document integrity verification tool in a matter of hours.

By collaborating with LTO Network, the United Nations Office of Information and Communication Technology has launched an open-source, highly affordable and blockchain-based tool to facilitate the widespread adoption of decentralized land registries. Using LTO’s Live Contracts, data can be automatically distributed to different stakeholders and systems to facilitate land-registry transfers, tax automations, provision of credit and other use cases, making them unprecedentedly efficient.

First Country’s Implementation Phase

The Afghanistan Government will be the launching institution for this new product. Land tenure and land transactions impact investments from both domestic and foreign sources, credit availability, poverty rates, land values, and agricultural productivity which are all key elements of economic performance, development and sustainability for any country. Land registries underpin how land is held, used and transacted, and support the protection, transfer and enforcement of land rights as well as resolution of land disputes. Land rights that are protected by law and that can be transacted easily are critical to a well-functioning economy.

Finalized occupancy certificates generated from the Afghanistan Land Authority (ARAZI) are directly placed on the LTO Network blockchain via a simple API integrated in the UN-OICT-built system. The certificate is then automatically sent by email to the parcel owner who can demonstrate the document’s authenticity independently, through the open source blockchain verification tool. The transaction receipt is sent back to the ARAZI system for later reference.

The “GoLandRegistry” solution will enable the Afghan Ministry of Urban Development and Land to maintain a registry of authentic and immutable property records, and to produce and issue occupancy certificates. The Afghanistan land registry solution will be transferred to the country’s Government in December 2020, and will be ready to handle an estimated 2.8 million land parcels that will be individually registered on blockchain, after which every new mutation to the occupancy certificate will be done via immutable transactions using LTO’s Live Contracts. Property owners will be able to demonstrate the authenticity of the document independently through the Open Source blockchain verification tools.

Maurizio Gazzola, Chief Strategic Solutions, UN-OICT - “UNOICT has collaborated with UN-Habitat, the Government of Afghanistan and the LTO Network to build a software solution that can effectively support Afghanistan’s digitization of Government administration services to improve the quality of life for its citizens. The plug-and-play design of the LTO Network’s blockchain and the contribution of transaction tokens for the Afghanistan project enabled the development of the blockchain anchoring mechanisms and the Open Source certificate of ownership verification tool that is now available to any country to utilize as a blockchain add-on to their existing land registry systems”.

Victor Kisob, Deputy Executive Director, UN-Habitat - “Land is central to ending poverty and inequality, to enhance access to food security, to provide basic services, to foster peace and stability, and to reduce land degradation in rural and urban areas. UN-Habitat is supporting member states to build and strengthen systems to fast track progress towards SDGs 1, 5 and 11, and to generate data for monitoring progress, reporting, as well as for effective and evidence-based policy formulation and decision making. Efficient and accessible land registries are key for this process. The collaboration between UN-Habitat, UNOICT and LTO will promote the use of modern technology and an integrated approach to data generation for this purpose”.

The beginning of something bigger

With the GoLandRegistry project, UN-Habitat is supporting the Government of Afghanistan to leapfrog conventional technologies for land registration and land-based taxation. UN-Habitat has partnered with UNOICT to introduce blockchain technology to improve tenure security and increase municipal revenues to enhance stability, self-reliance and local economic development.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) reached between the UN-OICT and UN-Habitat provides a framework of cooperation regarding the development of emerging technology tools and digital platforms for urban design and planning, with particular focus on Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.

And with the United Nations advocating to use blockchain against corruption throughout the world, LTO Network is ready to offer its expertise and plug-and-play solutions wherever needed.

Rick Schmitz, CEO, LTO Network - “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.”

Other developing countries are expected to commence their land registry pilots later in the year 2021.

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Christian Zhang

CMO of LTO Network