Uganda NES steering committee pay the National Land Information Center a visit.
A 12 member team of organizations leading the development of a National Engagement Strategy (NES) were hosted by the Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development at the National Land Information Centre (NLIC) on the 10th.February. 2018 a visit that was organized to understand the infrastructure and technologies that was being utilized to digitize the land transactions as well as the new systems being adopted by the Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development. The organizations that form the steering committee of the NES attended this learning visit, these were Oxfam, LANDnet, NURRU, UCOBAC, TROCAIRE, FRA, ECO, Safer World, LICO and ESAFF.
The team was received by Mr. Grace Kagoro of the Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development and Ms. Esther Apio the Business analyst, quality assurance team leader, who made the presentation of the new NLIC system advancements. She informed the visitors that the NLIC was in the process of migrating from an old system to a new system. A contrast between the two systems was demonstrated in view of highlighting system capabilities.
The new system displayed components like SMS and email functionality, which meant that clients could receive notifications on their mobile devices for land inquiries made at any of the operational Ministry Zonal Office’s (MZO’s) in the country. The system also provided monitoring tool that enabled monitoring management for MZO’s and the staff members employed by them, ensuring optimal utilization of time and resources. She mentioned that as a result of computerization, 21 MZO’s were created and the regions to house MZO’s were nominated from the traditional regions of Uganda. It was mentioned that phase one of this process commenced in 2010 to 2013 while phase 2 was slated to run from 2015 to 2019.
According to Esther, the old system utilized commercial off the shelf software that was too expensive to government since a licence had to be procured periodically to allow it to function, something that the new system got rid of since it was developed from open source software that allowed design flexibility and did not carry license constraints of commercial software. This new system also had the capacity to link cadastral information which the previous system couldn’t do.
However the key emerging issue for the NES steering committee was security and integrity of information since land is a vital resource in Uganda that should be safeguarded. They wanted to know how secure these systems were, and if they could be compromised by external elements. The committee was informed that a security policy was in place at the information centre and 3 security protocols were observed and utilized; Administrative control, technical control and physical control. Through administrative controls, an ICT policy was developed, awareness trainings for all employees were mandatory even for MZO’s and all staff were expected to observe and sign onto this policy. The second control was the technical control by which security mechanisms were put in place to reduce risks like the National Monitoring Station that monitors and provides support to MZO’s. The final control was the physical for which CCTV cameras that live stream employees and monitors their activities were installed in all offices and MZO’s. They were also reminded that the system being used wasn’t open to the general public and even the MZO’s had limited access to the core system infrastructure. This new system finally according to her had the capability to integrate with other institutions like NIRA and URA.
The new system according to Brian Sserukawe, the quality assurance officer, has a one person one title policy that would be implemented to avoid double titling issues thus curtail fraud. All land transactions according to him could be concluded at the Ministry Zonal Offices with the information backed up onto a central repository at the NLIC, only allowing copies of information to be accessed by MZO’s management. He noted that all MZO’s are accessible by the public however the National Land Information Centre was not open the public. He however mentioned that a public portal was being developed that would allow limited access to the public on select sections of the land information system.
Another concern that was raised by the NES steering committee was on how individuals in the local communities and those that have limited knowledge would be able to use these system at the MZO’s without getting exploited. Esther mentioned that the ministry had employed new officers who had received training in view of providing appropriate assistance to community members. A customer support and communication officer at the MZO’s level was also introduced to ensure that people in the community received the desired assistance. The committee was also informed of a security feature called the audit trail that would monitor all activity by members of staff throughout the MZO’s in Uganda. All the systems across the country were monitored centrally at the National Land information Centre (NLIC) in line with the organization security policy.
The final session was steered by the Director Land Management Mr. Richard Oput who gave a comprehensive presentation on the computerization of the Land registry. He informed the visitors that the spirit of the land Act was to take service to the people. Before 1995, all land had to be acquired through Uganda Land Commission (ULC) however in a bid to facilitate the land act at community level District land Boards (DLB’s) were created. These had District Land tribunals to mediate on land disputes and each district had to have at least 5 officials.
He then presented a detailed analysis of the features on the new system being utilized by the national land information centre, these were the Open Source software, First-in First- Out system process that limited double titling of land, SMS Functionality that provided improved information access, system Integration with other government systems; for Instance; NIRA, Uganda Investment Authority (UIA), Uganda Registry Services Bureau (URSB), Administrator Generals Office and the Courts of Law, a Call Centre for enquiries, a Physical File Tracking protocol embedded in the system and a Public Portal that would be accessible to limited sections of the land registry. He mentioned that the system was currently in phase 2 and it is was hoped that in the near future, it would become self-sustaining. This new NLIC system according to him had generated a total of 113, 527,928 Uganda Shillings and it was projected that this trend of financial growth would continue. He mentioned that the national land information centre was currently engaged in the Geo locating network project, by which 12 station were being built to ensure that surveying was made cheaper and location marking was simplified. This would enable the system to contribute to Tenure security, accuracy of measuring land through continuously operating reference systems and ultimately check against encroachment.