Blockchain for Land Registries

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.

Sources and links:
https://www.economist.com/news/business/21722869-anti-establishment-technology-faces-ironic-turn-fortune-governments-may-be-big-backers
http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/land
https://www.ft.com/content/60f838ea-e514-11e7-8b99-0191e45377ec
Picture: Stockholm, Magnus Johansson, Creative Commons

100 Smart Cities

Mumbai

The Indian government will develop 100 Smart Cities in the next 15 years. The current urbanization level is around 31% accounting for 60% of India’s GDP. The urbanization level is expected to grow rapidly in the coming 15 years and hence the Indian Government developed an ambitious plan to develop plans for these ‘engines of economic growth’ using the latest principles for sustainable urban development and new technologies. Accordingly, the current thinking is that 100 cities to be developed as Smart Cities may be chosen from amongst the following:

  • One satellite city of each of the cities with a population of 4 million people or more – 9 cities
  • All the cities in the population range of 1 – 4 million people – 44 cities
  • All State Capitals, even if they have a population of less than one million – 17 cities
  • Cities of tourist and religious importance – 10 cities
  • Cities in the 0.5 to 1.0 million population range – 20 cities
  • In Delhi, a new smart city through the land pooling scheme has been proposed

More than one and a half year ago the Indian government already launched the initiative. At that moment in time the ‘100 Smart Cities’ plan was conceived as a mere technological approach to the city. The Note on Smart Cities that is to be found on the website of the Indian government now takes a much broader and interesting approach. Summarised ‘Smart’ is being defined as providing basic infrastructure and services, resilient and attractive urban patterns, quick and transparent planning processes and new technologies. In a sense the ‘100 Smart Cities’ strategy is upscaling the ‘pilot project’ hundred fold in order to generate a real and lasting effect on a broad range of cities across the country. Learning from these examples and all the new brainpower that this ‘grande project’ attracts should equip local governments with the right tools and guiding principles to cope with the rapid urbanisation in the country.
Picture: Martin Roemers