Land registry system enters final phase

28 Oct 2003

An online electronic archive containing more than 3.5 million title documents such as deeds and land records belonging to the Land Registry has entered into its final phase of development and has reduced search times for vital documents from several days to just a few minutes.

“Our mandate in the Land Registry is to provide faster and more convenient access to land title information,” explained John O’Sullivan, information systems manager at the Land Registry. “Back in 1999, we started this journey by implementing a project which resulted in a new system called Integrated Title Registration Information System (ITRIS). As a result of our e-Government mandate, this in turn led to an online customer access interface to our information called the Electronic Access Service (EAS), which is now an increasingly important channel for delivering our services.”

The electronic archive project was awarded to the IT outsourcing firm EDS in 2001 following an EU-wide tender competition. The imaging project is the latest element of the Land Registry’s EAS project and is part of the Government’s e-government rollout. With 3.5 million legal documents currently archived electronically the plan is to have the full quota of six million documents scanned digitally by November 2004. Some of the documents that are now available electronically date back to 1892.

The Land Registry was founded in 1892 and operates a title registration system which is underpinned by a State guarantee. When a title is registered in the ILR, the deeds are filed in the Registry and all relevant particulars concerning the property and its ownership are entered on public registers of ownership, individually called folios. These registered parcels of land are also shown on maps retained by the Land Registry. The size, format, colour and condition of folios vary depending on type and age. For example, the older folios comprise wax and opaque folios. They contain handwritten text and are usually double-leafed.

Citizen and law firm demand for Land Registry records and services, while always at a high level, has increased significantly commensurate with the volume of records now available on-line and is expected to reach almost 500,000 electronic transactions for 2003.

It is understood that the overall system is based on a clustered Windows 2000 Advanced Server platform running the Oracle Enterprise database technology and IXOS eContext management software. The storage for the records system is based on a Hewlett-Packard magenetic disk array, which stores all black and white images and data base indexes while colour images are stored on a series of HP optical jukeboxes, and back-up is based on a high speed tape array. The scanning and storage solution was provided by local technology services provider Memorex Telex.

“The mission-critical nature of the data, the different physical formats and the sheer scale of the data to be recorded provided EDS with a demanding project management task,” said Peter Donnelly, managing director of EDS Ireland. “The EDS team, led by Liam Halloran, had to manage both the technical infrastructure and the content sensitivity. The folios and corresponding maps are the sole legal documentation referring to land ownership in Ireland and could not be removed from the ILR premises.

“With the more ancient folios, there was also the danger of losing critical information,” continued Donnelly. “As the company responsible for overall management of the project, quality audits were key to our success. To put this into perspective, there are 177,000 pages to be scanned, indexed and loaded onto the system every month, which translates into 2000 folios per day. This project also continues until November of 2004.”

By John Kennedy