Mats Snäll, Chief Digital Officer, The Swedish Land Registry, about Blockchain Technology and innovation projects in Sweden.
Interview: Reinhard Riedl
What is your approach to innovation in government?
Our approach (we are a state government agency to keep real property register, perform mapping, form real properties and establish ownership registrations and other rights connected to properties with about 2000 employees financed by fees and grants ) is that innovation is the tool to identify opportunities to move faster with better results in digital development (business development with the opportunities IT offers). It is also a driving force to gain experience and more in-depth knowledge, validate ideas, and to motivate and inspire digital leadership and development. Innovation is observed in budgeting, in planning, and management.
Business invests time and costs to give the whole organization value.
What is the goal of these innovation projects?
The goal is to prove or validate a thesis or an idea; not a product, an implementation or a determined value or effect to anyone. There is no need for a result if the activity does not lead to any such answer or verification, or if the activity is stopped.
One of your innovation projects is about blockchains for land registers? Why did you decide to go for blockchain technology?
We innovate with blockchain technology because we believe that it might lead to better and more secure transactions with real property, it may offer even more transparency, and it provides real digital original contracts. We innovate to verify that.
What did you achieve and what are your findings?
To date, we have shown that the technology works to support the full process of selling and buying a real property; including financing, mortgaging and land registration. We have also found that the promises mentioned seem to be true. Lessons learned so far are that the technology has become the lesser of the challenges and that the issue of governance, legal aspects and liability may be more challenging.
From your perspective, which role will blockchain technology play in government in the future?
It will play the same role as the traditional database-driven technology; adhering to the same belief that paper documents are the only possibility to have reliable true originals. However, it will be more readily adaptable and usable for businesses or models of operation.
What are others innovation projects you are running/planning?
We run “projects”:
- to see if open data inspires more innovation and better services in society
- to verify that AI (IBM: s Watson) can improve and provide better services to customers who ask questions about land registration and improve the rate of positive
- to see if it is possible to collect information on coordinates for property boundaries through crowdsourcing and VR/AR
You also work for foreign countries. What is the motivation behind this type of services for others?
The motivation is really about being part of a Swedish Development cooperation to reduce poverty and according to the Swedish aid programme. A critical aspect of reducing poverty is to develop the country’s administration. We work broadly with building capacity , increase our knowledge and support with experience from Swedish experts from our organization to fight poverty and to work for equality and gender issues (another prioritized area), and to protect the environment.
Which projects have you done so far abroad or have planned for the future?
Lantmäteriet has been active in a vast number of nations. Here are some of the ongoing and completed projects:
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Botswana, Georgia, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Kirgizstan, Croatia, Namibia, Serbia, Tadzhikistan, Vietnam, Belarus
Which benefits have you got so far from these projects and what were the benefits in the countries where you worked?
It is not meant to be beneficiary to us or lead to any profit to Swedish interests because it is a part of the Swedish aid programme. But we do gain a lot of experience, and many ideas emerge from the work which is possible to adapt to our business.
Our traditional final question: What will democracy and government look like in 2050?
Future democracy and government will probably have the same values and regulations, but the way and the processes to act out the democracy will change and rely on the infrastructure of an information society. We probably will see a lot more of acting power from “social media nations” (Estonia e-citizenship, Facebook…), direct polls and uncorrupted elections (hopefully) due to blockchain/distributed ledger, etc.