A Land Information System (or LIS) is a system that records information about land (or information relevant to land). A LIS usually records rights according to the existing land and cadastral system conventions, like the South African Deeds Registry. A land tenure information system goes beyond a conventional LIS to include much broader stakeholder information. Ideally land information systems should be able to include a continuum of tenure types, from the highly formal to the highly informal. This ranges from the changing needs of a deeds registry system, to customary land held in custody by a traditional leader, to information about occupiers of a dwelling in an informal settlement.
On the more formal side of this spectrum, many countries are looking at digitising and extending their land information systems. For example:
- The Deeds Office in South Africa is about to change radically. For example the Electronic Deeds Registration Systems Bill was published on 15 March 2017 and is now open for public comment.
- The Department of Human Settlements deals with both central housing databases and provincial databases.
On the informal side of the spectrum, many countries are grappling with the challenges of encompassing the full range of land tenure rights. For example:
- African countries have to creatively address the recording of flexible and overlapping tenure.
- In the customary setting, land information is often unwritten, being part of the collective memory and confirmed by witnesses and informal proofs.
- The rights, restrictions and responsibilities in informal settlements are difficult to define.
- The overlapping rights of non-owners using land that is being expropriated need to be protected.
The way data is incorporated in a LIS affects rights. This makes the development of responsible LIS systems a global issue, especially in developing countries.
This raises many legal questions. How is the privacy of citizens protected? Is the evidentiary weight of electronic records maintained? How can social tenure that is not normally formally recognised be protected and recorded? Is the record keeping feeding into a LIS gender responsive?
Why is a Land Information Systems (LIS) important?
In addition to being somewhere to live or work, land tenure is central to personal financial security. It is the foundation for the economic development of a country. For example: A person in an informal settlement needs an address (or proof of residence) to open a bank account; land is often used to provide security to borrow money; a LIS is critical for Government to provide services. This is why it is crucial to record rights related to land accurately in a land information system. This is complex, with a number of legal fields coming into play to enable that to happen.
Our experience with Information Systems and Tenure
We have extensive experience with governance, risk and compliance related to many different kinds of information systems, including databases. This has included the public sector, land and health related information.
Our Leslie Downie has extensive knowledge and experience in the land tenure focus area. This includes:
- Housing record keeping systems for poor or low-literate consumers
- Extra-legal and informal land tenure information that falls outside the usual legal property law norms
- Recording social tenure
- The effect of Title Deed registration backlogs for poor consumers
- Innovative pro-poor land tools
- Being a member of the South African Geomatics Institute
Our legal expertise partners with that of the IT technical experts that develop the technology for an information system.
How we can help
- Help those responsible for protecting LIS data to comply with their legal responsibilities.
- Gap analysis to see that standards governing information security and processing of deeds and documents are compliant with existing and proposed new laws.
- Consider the loss of rights due to the lack of plain language usage in private and public sphere in formal documents that feed into the LIS. Plain Language Audit.
- Protect people’s data privacy by protecting the personal information contained in the LIS.
- Deal with the legal aspects of making tenure processes electronic and automatic.
- Ensure that all records are retained correctly.
- Pioneer creative systems to solve real problems in a practical way, embracing both plain language and simple law.
- Train Government paralegals.
- Protect the rights to any private or public database created.
- Ensure the evidentiary weight of electronic and manual records.
- Advise on using electronic signatures effectively to ensure they are valid and legally enforceable.
- Facilitate notarial authentication of processes.
- Give people access to information as the law entitles them to.
- Advise on the legal obligations to secure the information in the LIS.
- Ensure any electronic transactions are valid and binding.