Governments rarely publish their primary land tenure, use, value, and development data as open data. Some national and local governments sell their land and property sales data, thereby earning revenue to assist with the costs of maintaining information systems but restricting access for many. Releasing land governance data in many countries has significant technical, institutional, and financial barriers. In some cases, reliable land tenure data does not exist at all; metadata is inadequate; the date of the resource and its source are unknown; and there are no formal custodians for the data. Government officials may be embarrassed if the data they open up is inadequate, as this might suggest that their performance is inadequate. In order to improve this situation, governments, private data producers, and international organizations can use common standards and policies to protect personal and restricted data, as well as to ensure reliable and consistent data formats and legal data use at local and global levels.
The Land Portal Foundation and Open Data Charter released a draft of the Open Up Guide for Land Governance in May 2021 for public comments. The Open Up Guide on Land Governance is a practical resource to be used by governments to publish land-related data to improve data quality, availability, accessibility and use for improved citizen engagement, decision making, and innovation. After considering public comments, which added important dimensions to the final document, we are releasing Version 2.0 of the Open Up Guide for Land Governance today. The excerpt below highlights the top three challenges any government faces in opening up their land data. Navigating these challenges is a top priority for the Land Portal as we begin to collaborate with national governments to put the Open Up Guide into practice.
Social and Political Concerns
Reform without political will, an open legal and regulatory property rights framework, and effective land administration is risky. Opening up land governance data is primarily about improving the performance of the responsible agents of land administration, which is the government. Improving access to land governance data must therefore also be geared towards enabling government departments to make use of and improve their performance, decision making, and policy development. Reform is likely to be less successful if there is no clear benefit for improved governance and if reforms are simply seen to create additional work for these departments. Similarly, if there is no information law and confidence that personal data is protected, society may be adversely affected by open data reforms. Improving trust and transparency are fundamental.
Citizens in many countries are not confident that their privacy and security are being protected at local and national levels. The lack of transparency and openness in land information systems disproportionately affects vulnerable, indigenous, and marginal groups in society, particularly women and ethnic minorities. Large donor investments in land registration systems currently make few resources available to enable open data. The introduction and upgrading of land information systems requires that major foundational work accompanies such reforms; namely a transparent legal and regulatory framework for property rights, a functioning land administration system, and tools and techniques for online support.
Digitization of Data and Digitization of Processes
Many land registers only offer analog land governance data, making search, retrieval, and analysis of a large number of transactions an arduous task. Programs to convert this information into digital records (digitizing) are slow and expensive in terms of financial and human resources. When digitizing the data, organizations (private and public) must also convert their business processes (digitalization) in order to fully derive the benefits of access to digital data and information. This challenge will require detailed consideration of whether to include digitization and digitalization in a full reform of land administration systems or to carry it out separately.
These challenges must be considered and addressed properly when a government sets out to open up land governance data. Open data is not a panacea for land governance problems, but it can be a critical tool for achieving good land governance and securing land rights for vulnerable people. Its potential has not been fully realized.
Read the rest of the revised Open Up Guide for Land Governance to read more about these challenges and other important aspects of open land data. The Land Portal will present the Open Up Guide for discussion at the 2021 Conference on Land Policy in Africa. The Land Portal is also collaborating with Open Data Charter and GIZ to conduct two pilot implementations of the Open Up Guide in Senegal and Madagascar.
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