Modern technology gives us many things.

Digital Government Transformation Blueprint: HM Land Registry

HM Land Registry offers an exemplar case study for Digital Government Transformation.

The UK Government’s Land Registry documented their digital strategy plan here; this can form a general digital transformation template model for any government agencies, and also provides specific innovation insights for other land registry organizations.

The first simple component of the open government policy template in action is the first paragraph defining the document itself as available via an open source licence.

Brilliant at the Basics: Case Management Digitization %

It’s an ideal baseline for a maturity model building reference case study, particularly as their headline theme of ‘Brilliant at the Basics’ is ideal for characterizing of the first step on the ladder.

The Land Registry case workers process 20,000 applications per day, with 650,000 received via post annually. Via a set of ‘Customer Targets’ they specify KPIs for the response rate levels expected of them for handling these, as well as ultimately a customer satisfaction rating for doing so.

The basic building block of Digital Government is the digitization of core business workflows like these claims, and the Registry reported an 81% level of automation in 2016, with a target of achieving 95% by 2022.

Having detailed Case Management targets like the Land Registry is thus the ideal end state of a basic level of digital maturity.

Digital Innovations

Similarly they also state ‘Digital Targets’ for their performance goals in a second main area of focus of digital innovations – What might they offer in the future that they don’t currently, and how might this benefits their customers and ‘disrupt’ their sector?

Digital Targets build on the previous KPIs, such as defining a metric of ‘we will average at least 99.6% availability for external e-services during published service hours’.

It also identifies specific technological advances and the new digital services they might make possible, for example launching ‘the Digital Mortgage service to create, sign and register a mortgage for approved partners‘.

A key component of this focus is the inclusion of specific key technology trends, most notably Open Data and the Blockchain. Highlighting that:

HM Land Registry holds a rich variety of publishable data of potential interest to individuals, customers, governments, lawyers, conveyancers and financial institutions. Every plot of registered land has a unique register title with corresponding number and plan. Information stored relates to people, places, rights and restrictions.

the Land Registry describes how they publish a number of open data sets and highlights the essential dynamic, how these enable new digital services, such as MapSearch.

Other data sets include Price Paid Data and monthly Transaction Data, as well as the UK House Price Index.

Digital Street 2030

This all culminates towards their pinnacle digital initiative ‘Digital Street’, “groundbreaking research that is exploring how land registration might work in 2030”, and is also how they express their highest stretch target of pioneering a world-class capability:

We will then apply real-life scenarios to demonstrate how a fully geospatially enabled digital register might revolutionise future property transactions, including using Blockchain technology, putting HM Land Registry at the forefront of global land registration innovation.

Digital Street is a new prototype registry that will enable this new real-time, machine-readable information platform.

The goals are to harness AI and other emergent tech and apply them towards impacts like improving the conveyancing process. Here is where they see the potential for Blockchain in particular:

New technologies such as Blockchain might enable the register to be distributed among trusted parties such as lenders and conveyancers, giving them the ability to operate and update in a secure and tamper-proof manner. We will explore the benefits of this alternative approach to managing a digital land register.

Digital Business Model Canvas

Their digital plan also outlines how to build a ‘digital business model canvas’ – Before web sites and code the team should have a clear understanding of the who, what and how of the new digital services.

This is an ideal early ‘forming’ process of bringing a team together, and can be populated from landscape reviews of what other similar organizations are doing. For example comparable initiatives include the Future Cities Catapult Land Information Platform, and in Estonia E-Estonia e-land register.

A key section to review is on page 14 where they describe their approach to exploring and formulating a customer/partner segmentation framework for expressing these as ‘digital ecosystems’, such as clustering groups like FinTech, LawTech and PropTech. Jargonistic yes but actually very helpful for populating a business model canvas and planning related activities.

The primary ‘value chain’ built atop the Land Registry is naturally all related processes: Conveyancing, property building, property selling, .. etc. This implements particular workflows across those defined groups and there is no doubt there is still much opportunity for better digital services between them. Digital business model canvas planning is the ideal way to draw out these service ideas.

Identity-Enabled Digital Services

What’s immediately notable is the involvement of Identity technologies too, the two are practically inseparable.

For example this enabling role of new digital service innovations is effectively highlighted in the UK Government’s HM Land Registry digital business plan, in which they describe a future intention of:

“We will continue to enhance and expand our existing e-enabled services, such as our innovative Digital Mortgage service that uses secure identity assurance techniques to enable a customer to sign their mortgage deed digitally. Across all stages of digital service development, the needs of the user and a drive for speed and simplicity will be at the heart of our design.

  • we will launch a Developer service to provide a digital online lodgement and approval of estate plans and template leases and transfers.
  • we will launch a Digital Transfer service to create, sign and register a transfer of a registered title.”

Business Secretary Greg Clark believes these Digital Mortgages could help reduce fraud.

The role of Identity highlights services / organizations such as Gov.UK Verify. For example in this PropertySolvers article the author explores the scenario, in particular noting the HM Land Registry ambitions:

“Graham Farrant, chief executive and chief land registrar at the HMLR reported on testing the Sign Your Mortgage Deed service for remortgaging homeowners.

The mortgage deed will be produced and signed as part of a largely disintermediated digital conveyance process legitimately recorded at the Land Registry. Identity assurance will be provided by the GOV.UK Verify service.”

This is especially notable because it is a significant technological leap, to accept Identity-related authorizations from a third-party rather than directly yourself, and this concept is currently experiencing teething issues, with Verify receiving considerable negative press for adoption and user abandonment issues.

For example the Law Gazette writes specifically on this relevant to this evolution of e-conveyancing, highlighting the basic evolution to online service is essential but the choice of Verify adds an element of doubt.

Blockchain Registries

New technology innovations provide a further stimulus through introducing new capabilities that weren’t previously possible. Where Open Data makes information more accessible and programmable, the Blockchain provides a more secure transaction platform.

Given the Blockchain is fundamentally a registry system then naturally all registry-related activities are a fertile area for its application.

As Anglia Research describes it is specifically intended as a ledger system for enabling and recording asset transfers, and CoinDesk provides this detailed examination of the use case, highlighting how one aspect of natural disasters is the potential loss of all paper based versions of these records, avoidable through encoding them on the Blockchain.

A number of countries are already blazing a trail in this area, including the UK, Sweden and Georgia each trialling implementations at different stages; it’s estimated the Swedish adoption could save taxpayers €100m. Chromaway, the supplier behind the Georgian system, discuss the scenario in more technical detail through this presentation, and this paper ‘A blockchain­ based property ownership recording system‘.

In Scotland

Scotland operates their own registry organization through ‘RoS’ – Registers of Scotland.

At 400 years old the Registers of Scotland is the world’s oldest public land register, but today act as a beacon of excellence in harnessing technology modernization towards this goal, for all of Scotland’s public sector to follow.

RoS has a range of customers including solicitors, estate agents, construction companies, central government and local authorities among others, whose requirements provide the focus of their Digital Transformation program.

This includes better utlizing their data to personalize online services, like producing bespoke reports for clients such as the Royal Bank of Scotland case study, which describes how they provide weekly reports to eliminate the considerable manual workfload the bank mortgage team faced when monitoring their applications.

The registers are central to a range of industry workflows, for example the Development Plan Approval is used for new housing developments, and they have improved this process by working collaboratively with key users like house builders and solicitors, as described in video interviews with Taylor Wimpey and Gillespie MacAndrew.

They also have in place the basics of online engagement tools, such as Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter accounts, as well as a well stocked, nicely produced Youtube library.

Their blog provides a peek Inside RoS, and a web library in the style of offering literature such as new deed plans.

Open Data Mapping

Their strategies are more or less identical including the focus on open data mapping as the flagship digital initiative, the launch of ScotLIS bringing a similar capability to market as Digital Street.

Open data mapping and blockchain technologies are each alone hugely powerful technologies to exploit, and with such a natural synergy given the role of ‘trusted ledgers’ and registry organization, when combined through this scenario will prove especially

There is considerable potential for other related agencies too. For example the delightful juxtapose of such ancient documents being transposed to such modern digital facilites, like the St Giles Cathedral, also highlight how this content would be ideal for ‘digital tourism’ too – Showcasing this heritage to the broader world to attract more online attention to Scotland and ultimately visitors too.

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