IBM Signs $60 Million Consulting Contract To Help Europe Modernize Land Records

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ARMONK, NY & PARIS FRANCE - 20 Sep 2002: IBM Global Services announced that it has been chosen by two regions in France to make land records -- some dating back to the early 19th century, and some still in Gothic script -- more accessible to the public.

Under the five-year, $60 million (60 million euro) contract with GILFAM, a public interest group that handles computerization of land registries, IBM consultants will help digitize several hundred years of land documents for the regions of Alsace and Moselle, advise officials on organizing information online, and help coordinate the transformation with other public and private entities.

Historically, notaries have been a primary channel for buying and selling property in large parts of Europe. The GILFAM project will make land registry information available to a wider array of parties, help address issues such as land disputes and environmental concerns, and make closing land transactions faster. The shift from "the quill to the mouse" will also help create nearly 100 jobs for the Alsace and Moselle regions and IBM.

The move comes amid the European Union's continued push to break down national barriers and instill transparency in markets ranging from everything from cars to financial dealings. It also comes in an era where the complexity and number of land transactions is on the rise. Buyers and sellers throughout Europe and the world will now have real-time access to documents in Alsace and Moselle. In addition, it will no longer be necessary for interested parties to physically make a trip to the regions to conduct land transactions. Under French law, land documents are not allowed to be physically taken out of the regions.

In phase one of the project, IBM consultants will transfer 40,000 volumes of records -- which represent 2,500,000 sheets of paper, or 10 kilometers of archive shelves -- to a computer database. Real estate professionals and the general public will be able to access the records through restricted Internet access. IBM consultants will also work with colleagues from IBM's Zurich Research lab to deploy watermark technology and a signatory authentication system using smart cards and biometric identification to protect against someone breaking into the database to alter information or to assume a different identity. In addition, the security of the entire IT chain will be tested by "ethical hackers," -- teams that test the security of networks by intentionally trying to break into computer systems.

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