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.
- The final report to the President the Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture (made public on 28 July 2019) says immediate action is necessary for a single national data portal for all land-related information. The President has been told that we need a new land information system and to change the way SA decides who gets land. The report also recommends compulsory disclosures about land ownership.
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 System (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
Michalsons has core skills that are critical for stakeholders who will be affected by the Land Records Bill and the Consolidated Integrated Planning and Land Information System recommended by the advisory panel on land reform and agriculture. 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:
- Current deeds registry processes
- Pro-poor land information systems
- Accurate and reliable record-keeping
- Informal and off-register rights
- The use of proper record-keeping to avoid conflicts and disputes
- Drafting LIS regulations and legislation
- Strategic pilot projects
- Training officials tasked with land record keeping
- Verification and authentication processes
- 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
Michalsons also has a number of practising ICT attorneys who focus on using technology to help clients practically and effectively attain what they need. Their skills are relevant for the Land Records Bill and the Presidential Advisory Panel Report:
- Information communication and technology law (ICT)
- Electronic signatures and the law
- Cybersecurity and cybercrime
- Promotion of access to information
- Data protection around the world
- IT governance risk and compliance
- Robot law
- Regulations affecting companies
- Shareholders agreements
- Consumer protection law
- Alternative dispute resolution
Our legal expertise partners with that of the IT technical experts that develop the technology for an information system.
How we can help
- Comply with your legal responsibilities to protect LIS data by asking for our assistance. Protect people’s data privacy by protecting the personal information contained in the LIS.
- Assess the impact of a land information system on the privacy of people by asking us to do a privacy impact assessment.
- Secure the information by asking us to do a gap analysis to see that standards governing information security and processing of deeds and documents are compliant with existing and proposed new information security laws.
- Stop people losing their rights due to the lack of plain language in formal documents that feed into the LIS by asking us to help you make plain language a priority.
- Check whether documents are in plain language or not by asking us to conduct a plain language audit.
- Deal with the legal aspects of making tenure processes electronic and automatic by asking for our advice. Ensure any electronic transactions are valid and binding.
- Ensure that all records are retained correctly by asking for our advice.
- Pioneer creative systems to solve real problems in a practical way by embracing both plain language and simple law.
- Train Government paralegals on the important issues by asking us to run workshops.
- Protect the rights to any private or public database created by asking our advice on the rights to a database.
- Ensure the evidentiary weight of electronic and manual records by asking our advice.
- Use electronic signatures effectively and ensure they are valid and legally enforceable by asking for our advice.
- Facilitate notarial authentication of processes by asking us to do it.
- Give people access to information as the law entitles them to by attending one of our workshops.
Who are our clients?
We assist governments, banks, private think tanks, non-profit organisations, and corporates.