New Kid on the Block(chain): Land Registry Turns to New Technology

June 13, 2019

2 min read

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What's going on here?

Blockchain is a newer type of ledger, like the land registry or a company’s books, that uses cryptography to store records. It has recently been hailed (among many other things) as a possible replacement to the land registry system.

What does this mean?

Blockchain is a system that offers a secure way of storing information. The best way to understand it is through an example. Joanne buys some land and builds a house on it. She records this in a block in a blockchain ledger. Joanne sells the house to Billy. When Billy purchases it, they record this information in another block and stick it to Joanne’s. Billy adds an extension and sells it to Cath. Cath gets another block and Cath’s block is stuck to Joanne and Billy’s blocks. Together the blocks make a blockchain. Get it?

What's the big picture effect?

So who cares? We already have a land registry system. Why is this any better? Well, when you buy property, you have to find out who owns the title. This can be difficult where mortgages aren’t paid back or signatures are forged. A land registry based on the blockchain could eliminate or at least minimise these problems as every transaction is simply placed on top of one another. It is also impossible to delete records. As soon as a block is added, a copy of the Blockchain is sent to lots of computers. Even if one person tries to change the information in a block retrospectively, the rest of the computers realise and automatically delete the edited block and replace it with a new, correct one.

This could have wider implications in countries where ascertaining who owns land can be more difficult. Blockchain has been touted as a potential solution to the land ownership problems in Israel and Palestine. With blockchain, it would be clear to see if land had been sold and, if so, to whom. It could also be helpful in countries where governments seize land under false pretences, as it would be decentralised, irrefutable proof that a private citizen owns the land.

Blockchain has also come in at a time when the land registry is becoming more expensive for governments to handle alone. The Australian state of New South Wales recently sold its land registry to a hedge fund and two states in Canada have also privately leased out their land registry services. Projects have started in Georgia, Sweden and Ukraine to use blockchain for their land registries. Blockchain could be a cheap solution to expensive land registry problems.

The question is, do we trust the technology?

Report written by Luke H​

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