By HENRY OWINO (Senior Correspondent)

The Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning is in the process of digitizing its land records to ease access to information.  The automation would enable members of the public to access all their land information records at click of a computer button.

Currently the Ministry is in the process of digitizing all its customer care centres countrywide for better service delivery. The National Customer Care Centre headquarters in Nairobi is fully under this operation after the official launch on 26 September, 2019.

The new state-of-the-art technology system came barely two days ahead of International Day of Access to Information celebrated on 28 September, annually.

From left Ambassandor Simon Mordue, EU head of Delegation and Dr Gideon Rugalema, FAO Rep in Kenya

At the National Lands Ministry headquarters, clients are now served by automatic ticketing machines. This therefore means, members of the public now address their specific land concerns to particular desks.

This new system in particular, shortens time taken from several weeks to possibly a day.  All land administration processes which are vital for land tenure security, conflict mitigation, investment, agriculture, infrastructure among others would now be handled digitally.

Change of the analogue system to automated Customer Care Centre system, is solving land issues faster than ever before. It has minimized huge crowds usually witnessed at Ardhi House and physical contacts thereby reducing corruption cases.

Speaking at the launch of the automated Lands Customer Care Centre in Nairobi, Mr Gideon Mungalo, Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning, hinted that it marks a milestone where stakeholders will get land information efficiently.

He said the digitization is expected to improve land governance and contribute significantly to some of the Big 4 Agenda.

“Individuals land information would be available online and accessible anywhere at click of computer button later in the year. Citizens would no longer travel from all over the country to Nairobi to seek for their land database but use: Helpdesk. lands” Mr Mungalo affirmed.

Mr Mungalo anticipated that all the land owners, developers, administrators, and other related stakeholders will benefit immensely from the strategic investment in making land related decisions. It would limit traditional paper-driven approaches and deliver the highest quality, accurate database for land issues.

“Accept our compliments for constructing, refurbishing and equipping of this modern facility and agreeing to put land information services efficiently to all stakeholders,” Mr Mungalo appealed.

Digitized lands records expert demonstrate how it works

Mr Mungalo revealed that some of the Big 4 Agenda priorities that the digitization is likely to address include Job creation and Employment, Food and nutrition security, Investment opportunities as well as Management of property conflicts.

“Apart from the centre improving land governance challenges, it would also ease business for citizens and be a game changer for the staff of Lands Ministry in delivering services much more efficiently as a one-stop-shop,” Mr Mungalo said.

“Again service delivery at the new digitized Customer Care Centre would now depend on first come, first serve basis, reducing bribery cases,” Mr Mungalo emphasized.

According to Mr Mungalo, the automation of Lands Customer Care Centre is being devolved to other counties as well.  He said by the end of November 2019, at least more than half of counties would be ready and operational.

Realization of this digitized Customer Care Centre was made possible with support from European Union (EU) and Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The outgoing FAO Representative in Kenya, Dr Gabriel Rugalema (Tanzanian), said the new technology would reduce corruption, court cases and restore sanity and dignity in the land registry process.

Dr Rugalema said chunks of lands in Kenya lie idle for years without doing any agricultural production due to court cases that usually take long to settle. He attributed it as major factor of food insecurity in Kenya while government loses revenue.

He regretted constant conflicts in Kenya are triggered by unresolved land ownership and settlements or occupancy.

“Many land court cases take as long as 20 years or even more discouraging farmers and other potential investors from making it agriculturally productive”. Dr Rugalema noted. “In fact, in some court cases, land owners die long before resolving issues, departing their sons or grandchildren with court proceedings”.

Dr Rugalema was optimistic that the automation of the centre would sort land issues and enable more agricultural activities, employment and better lives for Kenyans.

On the other hand, Ambassador Simon Mordue, EU Head of Delegation disclosed EU has been a strategic partner to Kenya’s agricultural development for several decades in both high potential areas and in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs).

Ambassador Mordue stated as part of this support, the EU has in the last 4 years allocated resources to strengthening land governance in Kenya.

“In fact, under the EUR 10.4 million (Ksh 1.2 billion) Land Governance Programme, the EU together with the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning, the National Land Commission and FAO, is contributing to these important and transformative objectives,” Ambassador Mordue disclosed.

Delegates at the launch of new centre

“In the last three months we have successfully launched 9 counties with digital Geographic Information Systems (GIS) centres.  It simply provides the County Government and residents with a clear map of its area structural amenities,” Ambassador Mordue explained.

The computer-based tool analyzes and visualizes geographic information of the county on a map thus making it easier for accessing information. Currently, Turkana, Nandi, Baringo, Marsabit, West Pokot, Laikipia, Tana River, Samburu and Vihiga are using this system.

Other counties are also being reached out to for the system to ease access to land information services without necessarily travelling out of their counties.

The county GIS and Registries would be interlinked with the national data centre and citizens will not need to travel to Nairobi or county headquarters for land information services. This is the idea at Ministry of Land and Physical Planning nationally.