As Sweden come one step closer to a Blockchain Land Registry, will the UK take action?

POSTED BY   Will Darbyshire
April 7, 2017

First out of the gate again, Sweden are about to take a giant step towards a Blockchain powered Land Registry: are we all paying attention?

Blockchain and the Land Registry

What is it about those Scandinavians? Why are they always so much more forward-thinking than us? Whether it’s tech, science, medicine, work/life balance, or environmentalism, they’re always forcing the rest of the world to play catch up. And that’s not a terrible zeitgeist pun about box sets of Scandinavian crime drama.

Land Registry has often been cited as a key milestone for technology. The complex processes that go into keeping track of what land belongs to what person is still, largely, done with 20th Century methods; a whole lot of pens and paper.

However, those old ways of doing things are incredibly vulnerable to human error and fraudulent practices. That’s why, when the idea of Blockchain was first introduced, Land Registry was earmarked as a perfect companion.

Many years later and Sweden are proving to the Blockchain pioneers as they take another huge step towards a fully Blockchain powered Land Registry.

...when the idea of Blockchain was first introduced, Land Registry was earmarked as a perfect companion.Click To Tweet

Ahead of the game

Sweden has long been one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world, with much of their Land Registry already digitised. Of all of the world’s wealthy countries, they are most definitely furthest along with Blockchain.

Since Junes 2016, Sweden’s Land Registry authority, or Lantmäteriet as it is called, has been trialling a Blockchain powered method of recording transactions. If it works out, they claim it will save the taxpayer over €100 million a year in by ‘eliminating paperwork, reducing fraud, and speeding up transactions’.

Phase 2

The first phase of this experiment, last year, was pretty much a presentation of Blockchain’s potential, whereas this recently entered second phase involves the addition of smart contracts which automate transactions.

Put simply, this means that the buyer and seller no longer sign a piece of paper, instead, they give electronic signatures which are stored and automatically verified.

This may not sound like much, but trust me, it’s huge progress. More than that, it opens the door for more and more countries to follow their lead. The success that the Swedes are having is proof that the technology can work.

The success that the Swedes are having is proof that Blockchain can work. Click To Tweet

Meanwhile, back in the UK…

I can’t imagine it will be too long before we hear more stories like this, but what kind of progress are we making in the UK? I have written before about how essential it is that we, as a nation, begin intensive work into the relationship between Blockchain and PropTechbut any advancements in digitising the Land Registry are completely at the discretion of the government. Have they displayed any budding interest in this field?

Should we acknowledge that we are so preoccupied with rescuing today that we're ignoring the potential of the future?Click To Tweet

Well, at the same time as Sweden were announcing phase 1 of their experiment, here in the UK we were being told that the Conservative government was planning to sell off the Land Registry, privatising the whole thing. So things didn’t look good. But then, in a classic Tori flip-flop, they abandoned the idea just 3 months later, blaming the whole idea on former Chancellor, George Osborne, and his desperate attempt to raise £5 billion and rescue the UK economy.

When they announced their intention to sell it off, there was an outcry from all angles. Most interestingly here though, various voices, including tech giant, DealX, and Think-Tank, Centre for London, spoke out, demanding that, rather than selling the Land Registry, we follow Sweden’s lead and revitalise it with Blockchain.

Since then? It’s all gone a little quiet. Accounting giant Deloitte released a short document outlining how Blockchain could help the UK Land Registry, but it seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Instead, the government have announced tentative plans to try and use Blockchain to fix the floundering benefits problems they’re having over at the Department for Work & Pensions.

One can’t help but feel that we’re going to fall behind. Shall we all just blame Brexit? Otherwise known as The Great Distractor. Or should we acknowledge that, as a nation, we are so preoccupied with rescuing today that we are ignoring the true potential of the future?

You can read about Sweden’s Blockchain experiment in full here.

 

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