Recently, I visited the Maryland Department of Assessments & Taxation (MDAT) Annapolis office as a guest of Director Robert Young and CIO John Humphries. During this visit, they were introducing the state’s valuation processes, methods, and systems to guests from the Nigeria’s Cross River state government: Special Projects Commissioner Bassey Oqua and the state’s Special Advisor on ICT Odo Effiong. Tom Walsh, Managing Director for Tax & Accounting Government, was also present.
For an hour we all huddled around a large flat screen monitor as Director Young and CIO Humphries explained the ins and outs of how MDAT manages some two million property assessment records across the state. They demonstrated the state’s AAVS (Assessments and Administration Valuation System), a Thomson Reuters-based technology platform. As John Humphries explained, the journey in Maryland to fully convert operations from a manual process to a digital system has been a 13-year endeavor. Coupled with better serving the public (the system processes more than a million external searches a year), the digital transformation has also improved the quality of data, specifically by reducing valuation calculation errors. Less errors equates to less objections and improved collections for the state.
Cross River Governor Imoke had just that morning signed a Sister-State agreement with Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. In his opening remarks during the signing ceremony, O’Malley stated that the value of this Sister-State relationship is “to exchange – to connect—to learn.”
Cross River recently transformed its land administration operations, making a very large leap in four years from a manual paper process to a digital registry system. Cross River invested in building out the physical, human, and digital infrastructure for the state’s Land Commission. The Thomson Reuters team, with implementation partner Teqbridge, supported the state’s transformation through technology and training.
“We faced many struggles with land administration in our own country,” stated O’Malley in his opening remarks, adding that the land reform project that Cross River Governor Imoke led will improve the social and economic security for citizens of Cross River.
Governor Imoke then remarked, “As a developing economy, we can learn from the systems and experiences in Maryland. Cross River, in particular, is concentrating on human development. We’re emphasizing information technology. Agriculture and tourism are very important [industries]. We’re developing opportunities for wealth accumulation for our people, be it in rural areas or in urban areas.”
Land reform in this context, and securing citizen’s land rights, is very important for people to feel confident to invest in and improve their land and property. Governor Imoke also emphasized that land reform and secured, searchable rights stimulates capital investment and wealth accumulation.
This day was particularly gratifying for me. As the Director of Strategic Relations and Communications at Thomson Reuters, here we had two of our customers (Maryland and Cross River) in one room sharing and exchanging ideas and experiences. The visit to the Maryland assessment office was further validation for Cross River that its investment in land administration is a pathway to improved governance. It was the connection of experiences between one government office to another that embodies not only the purpose but also the spirit of the Sister–State partnership.