There may finally be light at the end of the tunnel as the Lands ministry set June as the deadline for the digitisation of land records. It will be the realisation of the setting up of the National Land Information System, whose online portal is popularly known as ArdhiSasa.
This is something that past Lands Cabinet secretaries have grappled with against heavy odds in their effort to break down cartels that have, for years, thrived in this key portfolio. The consequences have been dire for businesses, other organisations and individuals, and at stake are billions of shillings.
Former Lands CS Farida Karoney spent a chunk of her tenure on streamlining land records, culminating in the establishment of the ArdhiSasa portal to ease transactions. It is the platform through which what used to be done manually is now safely and easily processed online. Her successor, Zacharia Mwangi Njeru, has given an assurance that the digitisation is at an advanced stage and should be cleared in the next four months, unlocking the funds being withheld.
Land registration, listing of transfers and charges, and land administration, such as the payment of land rent, physical planning applications, valuation, survey and mapping, are now easily done through ArdhiSasa. However, land professionals have also called for its audit, amid complaints that it is sluggish, as was witnessed during the pilot phase in Nairobi.
CS Njeru should ensure that his deadline is met to end the agony of the long-suffering landowners and prospective buyers and developers. Importantly, inefficiency in land transactions should be eliminated to speed up the process and enable the use of title deeds to develop the land and boost the economy.
Digitisation is the answer to historical problems such as missing documents or loss of titles or the malicious destruction of records. It should bring to an end the decades-old challenge of graft in the registries, grabbed land and missed opportunities for credit due to the lack of titles for use as collateral due to succession wrangles and ownership disputes.
An efficient and secure land tenure system that legally guarantees ownership is a goal that is achievable through technology. That is why the digitisation of land records is welcome.