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Delta State tackles land ownership with SA tech

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Nigeria’s oil and agricultural producing state Delta State makes a major breakthrough in land title acquisition using new digital signature technology.

New, locally-developed, digital signature technology sits behind a major breakthrough for Nigeria’s Delta State government, which kicks off its “Fast Track 90” scheme – a new digital system for the acquisition of legal titles for landed property.

Historically an onerous process fraught with bottlenecks, bureaucracy and prone to fraud, the issuance of Certificate-of-Occupancy (C-of-O) to property owners in Delta State will, going forward, be fast tracked to 90 days and fraud-proofed – thanks to a system written by pbDigital, a division of South African customer communications firm PBSA.

Delta State governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, unveiled the Fast Track 90 scheme at the end of March, saying one of the biggest hindrances to investors was the high cost and delays associated with acquiring the legal titles to landed property in Delta State, Nigeria’s oil and agricultural producing state.

“Fast Track 90, an innovative policy of this administration designed to enhance ease of business in the state, has been initiated to overcome the bottlenecks that have become a recurring decimal in obtaining C-of-Os, it will take a maximum of ninety days for land owners to obtain their C-of-Os from the Ministry of Lands and Surveys and the new system is fast, transparent and in line with global best practices,” says Okowa.

The solution was positioned as having significant benefits for Delta State, including much faster turnaround times, considerably reduced C-of-O fees, security surety and, ultimately, increased investment in the state

Fast Track 90 relies on a software platform – recently developed specifically for the project – which connects to PBSA’s High Security Module Cloud Server infrastructure in South Africa. The solution is a hybrid, digital certificate issuing and verification solution for certificates that also need to be printed on paper.

Leon van der Merwe, head of pbDigital, explains: “Smatforms, a channel partner of PBSA in Nigeria, approached PBSA for a solution to digitise the paper-based issuing process for Delta State C-of-O documents. The solution-platform is built on pbDigital’s cloud technology that uses state-of-the-art cryptography to embed digital signatures in PDF documents.  The system is an end-to-end solution for issuing these documents.”

The software system features four main fully integrated platforms:

* Certificate Creator – a platform to import the variable data of the citizen that appears on the certificate.

* PDF and QR Code Creator – a platform that produces the digital certificates, each with its own unique QR code for printing.

* Digital Signature Workflow – a platform that allows the certificates to go through a digital approval and sign-off process.

* Certificate Manager – a platform that gives management full visibility throughout the certificate creation, sign-off and post certificate management processes.

 

Certificate verification

The printed certificate that is issued to the citizen contains an embedded QR code, explains Van der Merwe. “When the QR code is scanned with any generic, free QR code scanner using an online smart device, the original electronic document is opened from a secure cloud location. The electronic version of the document and the printed paper copy presented by the citizen can be compared and must have exactly the same content.

“The authenticity of the electronic document can also be verified by using a free version of Adobe PDF Reader to verify the signatures.

“The digital signatures on the document that were applied by the official authorities when the document was produced, carry X.509 personal cryptographic properties. During the verification process, these signature properties will have the verified personal information and Adobe AATL (Adobe Approved Trust List) certificate information embedded in each digital signature.”

Although developed for Delta State’s new C-of-O scheme, pbDigital’s digital certificate software can be used in any process involving the issuance of printed documents in need of future verification. “The software speeds up business processes, digitises workflow – creating a full audit trail – and completely eradicates fraud,” Van der Merwe adds.