On two occasions I have seen this advert by the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development (MLHUD) inviting the general public to verify land title information in the new computerised land titles. They typically organise Land Registration Open Days, pitch camp in a specific location and expect every Wire, Mugwanya and Nabweteme to run to them and find out more about the status of their land.
The Ministry under “The Design, Supply, Installation and Implementation of National Land Information System Infrastructure (DeSINLISI)” project is undertaking measures to modernise land administration in Uganda. Alot has been done in the back-end as regards computerisation of the records and compared with the past, what we have currently is relatively impressive.
There is this famous story of a Muhima elder who boarded a bus for the first time to visit his son in law. Upon entering, he left his walking stick at the door of the bus (customarily, he is used to leaving the stick at the entrance of the house before he enters). When the bus reached it’s destination, he disembarked and expected to find his walking stick still there. The old man threw a tantrum when he couldn’t see his beloved walking stick. The Ministry of Lands is behaving in a similar manner. By embracing computerisation, they are staying stuck to habits that thrived in a non electronic era.
When I go to a restaurant and settle down, I usually have a menu that details all the available food and drinks they can offer. The food I want can only be prepared by the chef in the Kitchen. There are two options for me to get what I want:
Option 1 – I walk to the Kitchen and tell the chef what I want and wait till he has prepared it then walk back to my table with the food.
Option 2 – I get attended to by a waiter who takes my order, communicates to the chef and then later delivers my food at the table without me having to walk up and down.
The Ministry of Lands seems to be stuck to Option 1 in its understanding of how it should deal with the consumer (general public) even after computerisation. Like the legendary Muhima elder, they have embraced technology but are letting the very things that contributed to the inefficiencies in the past linger on. Why do I have to go to their offices anymore if indeed they now have an electronic system in place?
When designing computer systems, the new trend is to use the approach indicated in Option 2. The presence of a waiter in a restaurant makes the entire customer experience so great and thus increases the likelihood of customers patronising that place. In computer terms, the waiter that makes our lives simple can be referred to as an API (Application Programming Interface). With the system that has been developed for Uganda’s Lands Registry, all that is required now is for the National Lands Information System (NLIS) to come up with an API that can then be used by independent developers who are more than willing to come up with Phone and Web Apps that facilitate interaction with the Lands Registry. There is no longer a need for any sane Ugandan to walk to the National Theatre during the Land Registry Open Days, spend close to three hours just to establish information that could reach them on their phone with ease.
The National Land Information System (NLIS) can then focus on ensuring that it has a well functioning credible database and working with other partners in the private sector, it then ensures that the dissemination of the information is achieved swiftly. The dissemination of this information can be at a fee which is paid by those trying to access Land Information through avenues like Mobile Money or any other third party dealers that may have been identified.
The wins for the Ministry here are;
Increased access by the masses to the Land Registry
Increased revenue generation from the online land search activities that are now conducted by many more people than before. A revenue share model can be worked out with the participating private companies developing Applications just like the Telecoms have with the content providers.
Lands Information System extension at no greater cost to the Ministry since the private sector players will do this in order to generate more revenue.
Focus on the core database systems and ensuring that there is ultimate integrity of the information shared.
My plea to the team handling the NLIS, is that it’s time you focused on the customer and ensured that there is more inclusiveness. Avoid the traditional disease in most Uganda Government departments of desiring too much control of installed systems even when it’s to the detriment of the masses. Cede some ground and you will not only benefit as indicated above but also help spur innovation and entrepreneurial growth among the fledgling youthful software developers that are all over our streets.
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