The Blockchain, best known as the ledger technology underlying Bitcoin transactions, is now being considered for other uses, and in one Central American country it’s about to be used for something completely new: land title tracking.
The Government of Honduras announced last week a deal with Texas-based Blockchain company Factom Inc. that will see the country implement Factom’s Land Registry Tool to track who owns what within its impoverished borders.
The deal includes another Texas company by the name of Epigraph which specializes in “extending the power of blockchain technology to build transparent, tamper-proof, next generation title registration solutions for domestic and international organizations.”
“In the past, Honduras has struggled with land title fraud,” Factom President Peter Kirby told Reuters. “The country’s database was basically hacked. So bureaucrats could get in there and they could get themselves beachfront properties.”
In theory, Kirby claims that by building Blockchain title records with appropriate safeguards, Honduras will have a system that would allow for more secure mortgages, contracts, and mineral rights, without the problems experienced in the immediate past.
“This also gives owners of the nearly 60 percent of undocumented land, an incentive to register their property officially.”
Words probably don’t properly describe the level of endemic corruption in Honduras, although figures always help: according to the World Transparency Index Honduras ranked 104th in the world for corruption, a figure that is lower that large swathes of Africa.
Transparency International in part makes this observation:
Corruption-related challenges in the country are a result of widespread nepotism and clientelism, entrenched organised crime activities, and political corruption. Corruption takes many forms (for example, bribery, favouritism and undue influence) and affects many of the country’s sectors and institutions, such as the public administration and the education sector.
So is the Blockchain the right solution?
Full details on how it will work on the ground aren’t entirely clear, with Factom saying that the pilot program will be run until the end of this year, with the ultimate goal of rolling it out in full in 2016.
That the Government of Honduras is willing to at least try using this solution is a positive step forward for the country, but will none the less need wider support than a few corruption fighters at the top of Government.
With 2FA support requiring all parties in a transaction to authenticate land transfer the potential is there for it to be a more secure solution, but in a country with the world’s highest homicide rate, that’s only as good as landholders not being tortured for key access, and you don’t have to watch a really, really badly written episode of CSI: Cyber to know that.