In August of 2011, OpenTitle was selected as the solution that CNDRA would utilized as it began a scanning and digitization program of the various deed records maintained within the agency. The OpenTitle software was downloaded in Monrovia, despite the limited bandwidth, and installed on a basic local area network by the CNDRA IT Consultant, Mr. Ounzuba Kemeh-Gama.
Mr. Kemeh-Gama also completed the initial configuration of OpenTitle, and began to test the software on the scanning production line in order to verify its effectiveness and better understand configuration needs.
In September of 2011, an analyst from Thomson Reuters arrived in Monrovia to finalize the configuration of OpenTitle, and to train CNDRA staff.
OpenTitle™ was selected for use by CNDRA because it met the demands of the agency as outlined by the agency, and adhering to international best practices
OpenTitle from Thomson Reuters, is a an affordable tool that combines Esri’s ArcGIS mapping components with an integrated and robust document management system for the capture and maintenance of land and property information, such as documents and videos. Esri’s ArcGIS delivers essential mapping tools, including the ability to digitize new features and link spatial units to documentary evidence on the owner/occupier and their rights. OpenTitle’s document storage system (which combines secure file and relational database storage based on SQL Server Express) includes version control to track changes in land rights over time OpenTitle adheres to Social Tenure Domain Model (STDM) configuring the required data model entities (Persons, Non-Natural Persons, Social Tenure Relationships, and Spatial Units and Mortgages) on installation.
The solution proved to be appropriate for the infrastructure available in Liberia, as OpenTitle is available in both desktop and workgroup offerings. The workgroup version allows up to five computers to be connected on a local area network, with all records being saved to a central database. Given the limited infrastructure available during the activity start-up, the computers were connected via a wireless network, with one of the desktop computers acting as the server for the data production line. This was recently upgraded to a more robust, wired local area network, allowing for more rapid data transfer.
OpenTitle proved to be easy to use, particularly given its robust document and spatial management capabilities. In Liberia, it was found that staff members could be trained in the process for integration of paper records, indexing, and storing in the database in a single day. The modular design with key functional areas, such as indexing and searching, scanning and image manipulation, mapping and importing spatial data and manipulating spatial data, allows individuals to learn tasks that will only apply to them, or the details of the entire system. While the mapping system is a bit more complex, basic tasks, such as geo-referencing a sketch or site plan of a property, importing GIS data and linking property records to a point or parcel, only required an additional two to three days. In all, individuals were able to become conversant with OpenTitle in about a week, inclusive of time spent during on–the-job training as staff members began to work with the system to complete their assigned tasks. The initial installation and configuration of the workgroup was completed entirely in country, without onsite assistance from product engineers.
OpenTitle is now being used in the field, in a mobile capacity, as the Land Commission, with the support of the DLSC and CNDRA, have begun a two week pilot exercise to inventory the tribal certificates in Fissebu, Zorzor District amd Lofa counties. The exercise will help to better understand the number of tribal certificates, the location of the land they reference and the total land area covered by these certificates. This knowledge will inform future policy decision to be pursued by the Land Commission. As Tribal Certificates are only held by individual grantees, it is largely unknown how many certificates may exist, and how spatially accurate they might be. The Land Commission has launched a mobile team to collect information regarding Tribal Certificates in the field. The Tribal Certificates are being scanned and a photo of the Certificate holder is taken, and data is being indexed in locations convenient to individuals. Spatial information is being collected using geographic positioning systems (GPS) devised in order to ascertain the locations of the parcels, and identify any overlaps.
Since OpenTitle is spatially enabled, it serves as more than just a database for digital information. OpenTitle also allows the records to be associated with geographic information, in the form of points and parcels. These can be collected with GPS devices, formal surveys, or merely identifying locations on satellite imagery. Under a pilot program within the Land Policy and Institutional Support Project (LPIS), spatial data for various parts of Monrovia is being collected and linked with the deeds stored at the data registry, creating an integrated registry and cadastre. The Mapping tab enables users to digitize new spatial units and link these to natural/non-natural persons or rights. Users can also use geo-referencing tools to reference raster data as a backdrop against which spatial units can be captured (e.g. survey plans can be scanned and digitized and geo-referenced all within the OpenTitle application environment).
For CNDRA, OpenTitle has proved to be flexible and quick to implement. As the Land Commission and CNDRA have begun to look at different activities necessary to capture the myriad types of property rights within the country, there is a realization that software needs to be adapted to collect various types of rights, and reflect the overall legal value of various use rights. OpenTitle has been quickly configured to meet the needs of various programs under the auspices of the Land Commission. OpenTitle has also proven to be secure, and through versioning, can track changes to a record over time, as well as the individual who made the changes. The relevance of versioning is that the STDM caters for changing social tenure relations, as rights move from conflict to resolution, as temporal rights are extinguished and re-established, and as persons and non-natural persons change in relation to a spatial object, resulting in changes to data and data quality. In this way, OpenTitle is more than just inventory tool offering support for a proto-transactional land database in informal areas, but also a history of changing records