At its 2014
This makes it easier and quicker to register land and generate title deeds, and - being digital - it means poor smallholder farmers can access deeds from local land registration offices rather than having to travel long distances to a town where paper copies would otherwise be stored.
As SciDev.Net reported, some conference delegates pointed to potential complications. They are right to be concerned: creating and digitising land registries could exacerbate unfair land grabs or further marginalise people who may not have the right to claim land they live on or farm.
There is also the danger that this technology may reinforce women's unequal access to ownership and control of land.
The topic of gender inequalities around land tenure is much discussed in development, and the
Although 70 per cent of
Such discrimination in land access and decision-making is a key barrier to empowering poor women, lowering their status in the community and preventing them from borrowing money against collateral to improve their farming methods or to start small businesses.
Digitising land ownership is something of a double-edged sword. If land registry digitising projects were to blithely record the name of the head of the family as the proprietor of the land, this could further erode women's limited control over land.
But, done with sensitivity to the complex dynamics around land ownership, they could offer the chance to record women's rightful access to land officially, while also providing quick and easy access to title deeds.
The challenge is how to do this when land is so often considered the property of the male household head. One way could be to record the name of the person who farms the land, rather than the person who traditionally controls it.
To begin with, promoters of land digitisation projects should be aware of its potential to dispel one of the largest barriers to women's empowerment: their unequal access to land. To do this, digitising technology must be used wisely.
 Gender and Land Rights Database (UN FAO, accessed
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