A team of blockchain technology pioneers from Ghana, Denmark, and the U.S., has launched a blockchain initiative to establish usable land titles and free up trillions of dollars for infrastructure development in West Africa, according to Forbes.
The Bitland initiative will educate the population about technology and hopefully foster the benefits of documented land ownership to those who don’t have it. It will begin in Ghana and expand throughout Africa, with hopes of catapulting infrastructure development and strengthening democracy.
Bring Blockchain To The People
Ronny Boesing, the CEO and founder of CCEDK, the Danish cryptocurrency exchange and one of the Bitland’s promoters, said the initiative will bring blockchain technology directly to the people. The goal is to provide services allowing groups and individuals to survey land and record titles on the Bitland blockchain and serve as a liaison with the government to resolve disputes.
Bitland, which uses the OpenLedger platform for its blockchain infrastructure, has already been introduced in 28 communities in Kumasi, a city in southern Ghana, one of the most populated areas in the country. Boesing is the Danish registrar of OpenLedger.
Bitland will attempt to register land titles to a blockchain to make ownership public and immutable. There are no banks in Ghana willing to lend against unregistered land.
Digitizing Data A Challenge
As Bitland works to transfer paper data into a digital format, it must also consolidate new land registry requests against the old registries, according to the project’s white paper. In many cases, the official documents are outdated, and locals have their own ways to track titles. These problems must be solved to get a single registry that represents a consistent ledger of land title holdings.
Ghana has had a Land Administration Project for 17 years to address land disputes. However, nepotism and corruption have undermined the project. The project has not been able to consolidate the land tracking title program.
Larry Christopher Bates, Bitland’s chief security officer, said Ghana, having already worked on a land registration program, is a natural place to introduce the program. Bates is based in Bloomington, Ind.
Because the Lands Commission wants to solve transparency issues, blockchain-based solutions can bring both transparency and immutability to ensure the public ledgers’ integrity.
Around 78% of the land in Ghana is unregistered.
Bitcoin Can Reduce Corruption
Boesing said bringing clarity to land ownership rights will also reduce corruption and free up trillions of dollars because land that does not have functional title can’t be used as capital.
Hernando De Soto, the Peruvian economist who has written on the importance of property rights, has claimed it is not possible to secure a mortgage or buy a home without having clear land ownership rights.
Bitland cannot, however, rely on existing local infrastructure solely on account of “rolling blackouts,” a big problem in Ghana. The infrastructure is unreliable in many areas. There are 24- to 48-hour periods where large areas go without electricity. Hence, electronic solutions would not be feasible unless there were a fail-safe as part of the ecosystem.
To address this issue, Bitland plans to build solar-powered centers to serve as hardware hubs for the wi-fi network that will sustain power during failures. The centers would also provide education about digital solutions.
Boesing said OpenLedger is built on top of the BitShares platform and its MIT-licensed Graphene blockchain technology.
Digital Tokens Planned
Bitland will issue a new digital token called Cadastrals to serve as an entry token for its blockchain platform for all of Africa.
Bates said the team has allocated 20 million Cadastrals to be used in an initial coin offering (ICO) to create the first Bitland Center. CCEDK will host the ICO and the OpenLedger platform will hold the funds in escrow.
As the OpenLedger platform develops, it will add the capacity for a voting system, allowing communities to become part of the decision making.
The OpenLedger infrastructure will expand to include commercial property investments and third world development.
Cadastrals will represent the Bitland ecosystem. Bates said the price of the first phase will be 10,000 satoshi ($0.04 USD) while in Phase 2 will rise to 30,000 satoshi ($0.12 USD).
Those who buy Cadastrals will be the first to be able to invest in developing areas.
The ICO does not represent shares in the company, so Cadastral purchasers will be able to support development projects directly through Bitland while having their ROI protected by an escrow service, Bates said.
Government To Play A Role
Governments will oversee the Bitland Fund, which will collect network fees and funds taken into the main reserve. The fund will redistribute the funds to projects in the Bitland communities, funding the infrastructure provision.
Bitland will work with the Land Administration Project in Ghana, which the Lands Commission and the World Bank created, Bates said. He said government cooperation will be required in every country that Bitland operates in.
The Bitland protocol will eventually enable contracts and microloans so investors can use Cadastrals to develop areas and receive a guaranteed return on investment, he added.
Government backing will ensure that investors are not cheated, at least theoretically.
‘Smart Cities’ Possible
As Bitland works with governments to register land titles to the OpenLedger blockchain, the system will represent smart cities in addition to smart contracts.
Bitland also hopes to enable remittance and investments to expand to underdeveloped areas. Boesing said it is the first step to bringing “true democracy and meritocracy” to the world.
People could eventually be able to use mobile devices to register land with GPS accuracy, register a dispute, file a claim or sell or buy land.
After Phase 1 completes, Bitland will encourage governments to organizations to offer smart contracts. The team hopes to have the pilot project running in the next six to nine months.
Featured image from Shutterstock.