Blockchain, the technology developed for cryptocurrency finds its way into the field of governance. Opportunities to apply this decentralised, secure technology, are promising in e-voting, municipal finance, real estate transfers and land registries. This technology for land registries is piloted in Sweden, the Netherlands and India and discussed in Ghana and Kenya among others. Blockchain technology offers access to up to date encrypted data by many stakeholders, without being vulnerable to hacking. Instead of having a central server, blockchain disperses the encrypted data or the ledger of a process in a chain of blocks at different interconnected locations. In developing and emerging economies blockchain can offer a more transparent technology to avoid painstaking land registry processes and fake deeds that are common in places without a cadaster. According to the World Bank only 30% of the land is being registered. The market for this upcoming technology for land registry is big, but so is the challenge. Firstly there is the complexity of legal frameworks related to land and real estate that will not allow transfers to happen in digitial space with digital signatures only. Secondly the technology requires a blockchain protocol, smart tokens for land parcels, capacities of the parties involved – the agent, the banks, the seller and the buyer. Developing smart tokens for a city where no or limited has been been registered yet is already an immense task in itself. Blockchain technology offers many opportunities within the urban governance fields, but as always it is not a silver bullet, it requires a combination of new technology, data collection, policymaking, capacity building and stakeholder involvement to succeed.
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Picture: Stockholm, Magnus Johansson, Creative Commons