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Blockchain land title registry plan ditched

David Burt, the Premier (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A plan to add blockchain technology to Bermuda’s land title registry has been dropped by the Government, The Royal Gazette can reveal.

David Burt, the Premier, announced the project, in conjunction with the Bitfury Group, more than two years ago as part of a plan to position the island as a leader in the fintech sphere.

But a Ministry of Home Affairs spokesman said: “The Government has decided not to pursue blockchain's implementation into the Land Title Registry Office’s management system, which is known as Landfolio.”

He added: “The Government did hold exploratory talks with Bitfury, to see how Blockchain might enhance Landfolio.

“However, after careful consideration, it was decided not to move ahead with Bitfury as the Government had just bought Landfolio – which is an electronic registry, just not a blockchain-based electronic registry.

“It did not make economic sense to invest more funds into changing the database to a blockchain-based one, when the existing electronic database was up to the task.”

The Government said in June 2018 it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Bitfury that advanced “Bermuda's mission to improve government services for citizens by implementing blockchain-based solutions”.

The plan was for Bitfury to build an additional blockchain layer on top of the Landfolio system, which was implemented and is maintained for the LTRO by Trimble, a land administration company.

Mr Burt said at the time: “Bermuda is leading the region in embracing blockchain solutions that improve vital government services for our citizens.

“Working with the Bitfury Group, we look forward to building a world-class land title registry that enhances security, transparency and trust.”

The home affairs ministry spokesman said: “Blockchain's main benefit is that it allows the end user to keep all records immutable or unalterable.

“It allows an extra level of verification and validation in the case of any discrepancy.

“The blockchain mechanism provides a method of ensuring that changes cannot be introduced without being detected.

“Landfolio is a modern and sophisticated system and provides protection similar to blockchain applications.

“Landfolio already logs all transactions and tracks changes to the land records, including the time of the change to any document and who made the change.”

Bermuda isn’t the only country to abandon a plan to use blockchain to build a land title registry – Honduras did the same.

But The Investor website reported earlier this year that governments planned to use the technology for real estate purposes in 31 territories, including in the United Kingdom.

The UK’s Digital Street programme was testing a blockchain prototype that supported the digital transfer of a property in a system that automatically updated the land register.

Trimble gets paid $35,000 a year for software maintenance by the LTRO, a public access to information statement posted in the Official Gazette in January revealed.

The office has also hired four consultants who specialise in the creation of electronic land title registers.

The Official Gazette notice, said the cost for the four was $328,536.

The ministry spokesman said: “Currently, none of the consultants are Bermudian.

“However, the LTRO previously trained two Bermudians to be land title officers.

“One is still employed with LTRO, but the other trained Bermudian voluntarily left their employment.

“In 2019, the LTRO advertised for a bursary student but did not receive any response to that advertisement.

“The plan is to advertise again for a bursary student or trainee land title officer in the near future.”

Land title registration was made compulsory in Bermuda under legislation passed in 2018 – but only when a property was to be sold.

Users who check the electronic system online can still only access limited information.

The spokesman said the LTRO would launch full access to its web portal next year to provide “further information on land ownership to all its stakeholders”.

He said: “The Land Title Registry Office holds and manages an extensive collection of paper documents, which will take some time to convert to an electronic register.

“However, the LTRO is pleased to announce that we are working on our first phase of creating an electronic register for historical deeds.

“With the introduction of better scanning technology, which the Government has invested in, we hope to speed up the scanning of the remaining deeds.”

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Published November 30, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated November 29, 2020 at 5:42 pm)

Blockchain land title registry plan ditched

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