Homes for the holidays

A widow holds her land title in Pune, India (credit: Landesa)
A widow holds her land title in Pune, India (credit: Landesa)

$1.5m Google Global Impact Award supports Landesa and FrontlineSMS in three-year partnership to help 80,000 families in India to gain secure rights to their homes

Landesa and FrontlineSMS are delighted to welcome and share the announcement today of a US $1.5m Google Global Impact Award, which will enable them to use mobile technology to transform the way that the government in the Indian state of Odisha helps landless families gain secure rights to their land and homes.

Land titling through mobile technology

With the Google award, FrontlineSMS and Landesa will work directly and through barefoot lawyers already in place in Odisha to build and roll out a mobile technology-based land titling system. Mobile telephone technology will allow government officials to exchange information  with remote locations, enabling the state to provide land titles more quickly and more efficiently to as many as 80,000 poor rural households.

Approximately 1.25 billion poor people across the globe depend on land for their livelihood, but lack secure legal rights to land they occupy or cultivate. The largest concentration of those extremely poor, landless people is in India, where landlessness is the best predictor of poverty. Meanwhile, mobile phones are the most widespread digital communications technology the world has ever seen. This project will harness the comparative efficiency of mobile technologies to help vulnerable families gain legal control over their homes and homestead land.

The first step towards mobilizing justice

IA with Google for web
IA with Google for web

"This project is a first step toward making legal systems accessible to the people they serve, starting by reaching out with the technology they already use,” said Sean Martin McDonald, FrontlineSMS CEO and founder of the FrontlineSMS:Legal project. "Our goal is to build tools that work in the world’s most challenging contexts, reach the most vulnerable people, and improve the most vital systems. This project will use mobile phones to help hundreds of thousands of people find and keep something fundamental: the place they call home.”

“This project is a perfect example of how Landesa’s partnerships advance durable land rights to bring transformational changes on a large scale,” said Tim Hanstad, President and CEO of Landesa. “Here we have a multi-tiered partnership with the government, the private sector, and a highly specialized non-profit developing and testing a potential tool that can, with minimal investment, resources, and training, help secure land rights for some of the world’s poorest and most remote communities. These rights are the first step towards establishing a stable foundation for other important development work – like literacy, clean water, and nutrition.”

The FrontlineSMS and Landesa teams will start training barefoot lawyers to use the system early in 2014, and will release a toolkit and the new FrontlineSMS:Legal platform in 2015.

Download the full press release here.