LAND REGISTRY ON THE BLOCKCHAIN: AN INTERVIEW WITH ANNA ERIKSSON

2017-08-31

Anti-Corruption, Government, Public Sector

Sweden’s Lantmäteriet, or National Land Survey is changing the way real estate transactions and mortgage processes are handled. By using Blockchain technology to regulate and secure transactions and processes, Lantmäteriet has developed an innovative solution for a host of issues that affect the land registry services on an international scale, for example lack of transparency, abundance of bureaucracy and general inefficiency. OnTheBlock spoke to Anna Eriksson, CIO and Director of Development at Lantmäteriet to find out more about her experience with Blockchain and how this specific application could have wider reaching consequences, beyond its potential to reform Swedish Land Registry.

Pioneers in the adoption of Blockchain and DLT, Anna and her team are on the forefront of Blockchain research, so we were very interested where this story started.  Anna mentioned that her first encounter with Blockchain was in a meeting with a Swedish telecommunications company, but it was not until attending the Gartner Symposium that Anna made the connection between Blockchain and land registry. It was an ideal time for Anna and her team, “We had just completed a huge digital transformation and were very open to try new technology to enable an even more digital process. It was also at a time when we explored new ways of working with innovation with a dedicated team for digital development – a way of working that we now use”. Anna’s openness to Blockchain then, coupled with Lantmäteriet’s highly digital and flexible approach, created an ideal set of conditions for experimentation with the technology.

Though the platform is has not yet been fully implemented, innovative work is taking place. “There are positive impacts on the ability to understand the possibilities and opportunities with Blockchain technology and the results work also as a strong drive to force legal change and directions on a governmental level.” Anna was keen to highlight the effect that their experimental work has had on the reputation and credibility of Lantmäteriet, with their work receiving much attention both nationally and internationally. We asked which areas Anna perceived application of Blockchain as a viable model, to which she suggested a variety of ideas: “Processes for land registration with ownership, mortgages and rights to land, land formation and surveying for real property units, land parcels and boundaries”.

“Any technology, regulation or action that strengthens and withholds a corruption free society should be explored and used by its citizens and their representatives, including public offices”

 

Looking beyond the scope of the work of Lantmäteriet itself, we asked Anna to suggest where else Blockchain can be adopted to streamline or improve services, as is expected with the reform of land registry. Anna suggested a variety of applications where businesses required registers, records or ledgers, citing Blockchain’s ability to track ownership with transparency and immutability. In terms of the motives behind adoption of Blockchain, Anna said the following – “Any technology, regulation or action that strengthens and withholds a corruption free society should be explored and used by its citizens and their representatives, including public offices”. Blockchain then, represents a significant opportunity for governments and their various partners to combat corruption, fraud and error, as Anna’s team are attempting to do through their work. Trust represents a key driver for change in the public sector and according to Anna “the anti-corruption and transparency aspect will be of great use in disruptive ways for a lot of countries in transition and development… No-one will accept old systems that do not offer the security and transparency they require”.

In terms of future applications of Blockchain, Anna emphasised the need for Blockchain to harmonise with other aspects of technology – for example AI, to create technological hybrids that will overturn traditional ways of doing business. In effect, combining Blockchain’s transparency and security benefits with the efficiency and scope of other technologies will create the real disruption of present-day industries; Blockchain alone cannot achieve the same level of disruptive impact.

Finally, we asked Anna what lessons she would pass on to would-be adopters of the technology. Anna highlighted again the early stages nature of her work with Blockchain, but was willing to offer advice: “Don’t spend too much on the idea that you are going to have a real, live and working implementation because the knowledge on the area is yet to narrow to get products good enough for complex business situations… The biggest challenge is to go from innovation, to proof of concept, to live working products based on Blockchain”. While Anna and Lantmäteriet have shown the potential for innovation and improvements in a field by adopting Blockchain, even their cutting-edge work on the matter is early stages, and expectations around immediate implementation of Blockchain to create a fully fledged working product must be tempered with caution.

You can read more about Anna’s work on Land Registry here, view her profile here or catch her talk at Blockchain Live, on the 20th September.

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