WiseKey Looks to Put Rwanda's Land Titles on the Blockchain

WiseKey, a Swiss cybersecurity company has announced a partnership with Microsoft to support the Rwandan Government in adopting blockchain technology for its land registry.

A Swiss cybersecurity company has announced a partnership with Microsoft to support the Rwandan Government in adopting blockchain technology. The deal is part of an ongoing collaboration to turn the East African country into a Blockchain and IoT center of excellence. The partnership was first proposed earlier this year as part of the country's digital transformation master plan.

Rwanda is positioning itself as a hub for facilitating access to policy, technical and business expertise as part of a wider Smart Africa initiative with 17 other countries. 

Speaking of the Blockchain center, Rwanda's Minister of Youth & ICT Hon. Jean Philbert Nsengimana said 

"we have to harness opportunities in exponential technologies. These technologies include artificial intelligence, robotics, drones, big data, internet of things (IoT), Blockchain, and 3D printing."

The government and private sector see the blockchain as a fundamental shift in sharing data across industries, transparency and auditable value exchange.

WiseKey will bring on board technical tools for identity management powered by Microsoft's Azure Blockchain. Beyond managing identity, these capabilities apply to a wide range of use cases for Rwanda's economy. 

The first phase will digitize Rwanda's Land Registry using WiseKey's suite of applications. Microsoft's Azure platform will protect the personal data limiting access to WiseID for authentication of identity and validation of assets.

Carlos Moreira, Founder, and CEO of WISeKey said:

"We are delighted to form this new partnership with Microsoft by combining our technology to provide trusted blockchain solutions. This will cover technology gaps in the private and public blockchain infrastructure for enterprise and governmental projects, facilitate secure transactions and also verify the identity of the parties participating in these transactions." 

Proving ownership of land and property in developing countries is a well-documented problem. The secondary effects of poor title registries mean property owners cannot leverage their assets as collateral to access financing. Blockchain startups like Factom are pairing up with governments in Latin America to record land ownership on distributed ledgers.

The promise of blockchain is an open, transparent auditable and verifiable record of any transaction.

One of Rwanda's neighbors to the north, Kenya, disclosed a collaboration with IBM to transform the management of public records to a blockchain. Institutional failure in countries such as Kenya means the integrity of documents across different industries such as health, real estate, and education stand to benefit from transparency. 

Nyimbi Odero, an ICT Ministry adviser, stated at the time: 

"The government of Kenya, working with IBM, is currently implementing a blockchain-based education system so that if you're a Kenyan student, you can't fake your exam outcomes."

But Propy, a blockchain startup and official partner in the Ukraine's blockchain title registry project, says the blockchain has a shortcoming when interfacing with the real world. 

In developing countries like Kenya, the biggest barrier to change is political will more than the technology itself. Often, the land is communally owned, or a source of truth on ownership is murky at best after government officials have tampered with registries followed by several changes in ownership. 

The blockchain itself may fall short of streamlining property management in countries that need it most.