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Bangladesh: Digitizing Land Records to Combat Corruption

Corruption is rampant in Bangladesh. In 2009, the country ranked 139 out of 180 in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index. Of the various sectors in Bangladesh that are affected by corruption, the Land Management System is among the worst. Corruption has been highlighted as the main reason behind slow, poor quality and faulty land related services in the country.

Given the absence of a transparent system, bribery and other irregularities are common. People in the administration who are responsible for creating and maintaining land records often prepare incorrect records intentionally, and land owners are forced to pay bribes to officials to get the records approved. Officials and surveyors are often in cahoots with touts and land sharks; cases abound where people have paid bribes to officials and/or surveyors and gotten land ownership transferred/recorded illegally in their names, leaving the real owner(s) running pillar to post to get justice. In 2006 alone, bribes worth about 83 billion Bangladeshi Taka were paid for land related services such as registration and altering of records.

Over 3.2 million land-related cases are pending before the judiciary in Bangladesh. This huge figure does not take into account the large number of the aggrieved who do not feel empowered enough to approach the courts for litigation. Land disputes often lead to violence and criminal offenses. It is said that 80 percent of criminal offenses today stem from land disputes.

To deal with these problems of fraud and corruption,  the government is working to digitize the land records and the land management system to infuse some level of transparency and accountability into the sector and curb the rampant corruption. Currently, a digital database has been created for Dhaka city, and over 0.42 million land records have been uploaded into the database, which is soon to be inaugurated by the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Other initiatives, either private or public sector led, are being actively considered. For example, Terra Tech Ltd, a conglomerate of 10 local IT Companies, has proposed a digital mapping and land revenue management system, which has received the green light from the government. The department hopes that these initiatives will be steps in the right direction for implementing the government's Vision 2021 of a Digital Bangladesh and will usher in a more effective land management system in Bangladesh.

However, concerns have been raised regarding the limited success of past endeavors, which were localized and used different assumptions and follow-up actions. There is a growing realization and acknowledgment of the fact that isolated initiatives will not do much good. A consolidated plan has to be worked out under the public-private partnership (PPP) umbrella. In a recent dialogue [BN] on the effective use of ICT in the arena of Land Management, the Assistant Country Director of UNDP Bangladesh, Mr. K.A.M Morshed, presented a paper titled “Strategic Priorities of Digital Bangladesh: Land”, which stressed the need for a correct database through proper surveys, the creation of digital land zoning systems (namely GIS based maps with zones), a digital land registration system, and an up-to-date digital land information system integrated with the voter/national ID database that would offer easy access, search and verification facilities, and a digital land revenue tracking and management system.

In one of his articles on Digital Land Systems [BN] on the blog Blogymate, Mustafa Jabbar, who is the proprietor of the Bijoy Bangla software and keyboard in Bangladesh, has pointed out that the mere digitization of land records will not be enough to achieve transparency and accountability. According to him, a complete overhaul of the land related laws and the current mechanism of service delivery  is needed, as the current system is pretty much archaic. Mr. Jabbar states that the new, automated land information system should have an integrated approach so that a person searching the database can get all information pertaining to the land at one glance: ownership, registration, mutation, transfer, disputes, judicial cases, land map, taxes paid and pending, land related wills and such other legal documents. Furthermore, he feels that having all of this information is not enough. It needs to be made accessible to people in an easy, user-friendly manner, not only via the Internet but through the telephony system as well. According to him, just as a consumer can now access his/ her telephone bill from home through the interactive voice response system, it should be as easy for a person to access land related information.

There is a lot of hope riding on the effective use of ICT in the Land Management System of Bangladesh to usher in modernization, user-friendliness, transparency and accountability in this very important sector.

7 comments

  • Greetings,
    just a note: there is a service in Spain that, as far as I understand, already does much of what they’re looking for in Bangladesh: “the new, automated land information system should have an integrated approach so that a person searching the database can get all information pertaining to the land at one glance”

    The website is http://goolzoom.com

    of course it only works in that way because all the records it works on are ALREADY available in digital formats via the Internet, but it may be a good way for Bangladesh citizens and public officers to decide if that’s where they want to go or if they need something different.

    HTH,
    Marco
    PS: I’m very interested in this topic and everything about e-government and “digital development” of Bangladesh, if there’s something you think I should read about this, please email mfioretti at nexaima.net, thanks

    • People

      land Survey of Kasba Police Station under Brahman Baria District including all the villages was completed by the Settlement Department under Director General of Land
      Survey , Dhaka, Bangladesh in 1992 , ,

      But the same has not been
      published yet by Gazette
      notification till 2012 , which is indicative
      how this department is involve
      in creating problems and also involves in corruptions and
      malpractices .

  • […] post was first published in Global Voices Online as a part of its Technology for Transparency Network Project, which highlights technology […]

  • I can understand that there is a lot of hope riding on the digitalisation of land records. This was also the situation when Karnataka in south India digitalised land records more than a decade back. It was expected to take care of fraud and corruption. The role of ICT was hyped to an extent that everyone began to look at the experiment with much excitement.

    Unfortunately, digitalisation of land records under the Karnataka project called \bhoomi’ has failed to check corruption.

    Devinder Sharma
    New Delhi

  • Martin Tisne

    If land digitization initiatives do not directly take into account accessibility to the poorest, there are real risks that a primary impact of “open data” may be to further empower and enrich the already empowered and the well provided for rather than those most in need of the benefits of such new developments. See the below article.

    http://gurstein.wordpress.com/2010/09/02/open-data-empowering-the-empowered-or-effective-data-use-for-everyone/

    see this paragraph:

    ‘A very interesting and well-documented example of this empowering of the empowered can be found in the work of Solly Benjamin and his colleagues looking at the impact of the digitization of land records in Bangalore. Their findings were that newly available access to land ownership and title information in Bangalore was primarily being put to use by middle and upper income people and by corporations to gain ownership of land from the marginalized and the poor. The newly digitized and openly accessible data allowed the well to do to take the information provided and use that as the basis for instructions to land surveyors and lawyers and others to challenge titles, exploit gaps in title, take advantage of mistakes in documentation, identify opportunities and targets for bribery, among others. They were able to directly translate their enhanced access to the information along with their already available access to capital and professional skills into unequal contests around land titles, court actions, offers of purchase and so on for self-benefit and to further marginalize those already marginalized.’

  • […] mobile phones that have been used to monitor elections in Nigeria, to digitzing land records in Bangladesh to fight corruption; ICTs make governments more accountable and […]

  • […] mobile phones that have been used to monitor elections in Nigeria, to digitzing land records in Bangladesh to fight corruption; ICTs make governments more accountable and […]

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