Land Management Information Systems in the Knowledge Economy | Land Portal | Securing Land Rights Through Open Data

Resource information

Date of publication: 
November 2007
Resource Language: 
Pages: 
308

The economies of most African countries rely heavily on agriculture and other land and land-based activities such as tourism, mining and livestock production. Indeed, these are the core activities through which African countries participate in the global economy. Moreover, land is key to food security and the social-cultural needs of most communities in Africa. It has also been established that the performance of most sectors of the economies of African countries is indeed tied to that of the land sector. The management of this sector must therefore be accorded priority attention in all countries in order to unlock the overall performance of national economies. This is best done through comprehensive land policies developed to address all the crosssectoral needs and the unique circumstances in each of the countries. It is in response to this challenge that the African Union (AU), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) embarked on an exercise to develop a continental framework to guide land policy formulation and implementation in AU member States. The background document for the framework observed that a progressive improvement in the quality and completeness of cadastral and land information data bases is required to facilitate planning, land use change and to ensure that the land claims and economic needs of the poor and vulnerable are not ignored in the process of structural economic transformation. One of the substantive policy areas identified in the document is the reform of government land agencies, which deals with the clarification of institutional mandates and roles and establishment of business-like and customer-oriented land agencies; modernising survey procedures, land information and cadastral systems; streamlining of land titling procedures; better documentation of land transactions to support development of formal land markets. This emphasizes the fact that effective formulation and implementation of land policies can only be best done in circumstances where all the land information necessary is availed in a suitable, timely and up-to-date form to enable expedient decision-making by the policy planners in each of the sectors. The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) therefore set out to support the above AU-AfDB-ECA continental land policy initiative through a parallel exercise to develop some guiding principles to govern land management information systems in AU and ECA member States. It is expected that these guiding principles will greatly complement the efforts of these member States in their on going efforts to formulate and implement national land policies. Appropriate land management information systems will also be helpful in the evaluation of the implementation of national land policies and the overall performance of the land sector. The discussion, guidelines and principles contained in this publication was developed following a colloquium of experts on the subject from around Africa but informed by best practices from around the world. A detailed task brief was circulated through various networks, describing the objectives of the publication and calling for proposals from interested contributors. The contributors decided on their exact topics within broad themes. This approach allowed for both a wide participation and a wide scope of topics being treated. The authors of the fifteen proposals that were selected for inclusion constituted the panel of experts to discuss the pertinent issues for this publication. In addition to the selected submissions, Natural Resources Canada contributed three papers on relevant Canadian experience and best practice, and also commissioned a background paper prepared by the Centre for Property Studies of the University of New Brunswick. The colloquium discussed, among other issues, 1. Information needs for land administration in various jurisdictions and sectors – urban, rural, environmental management, and social and economic development; Executive Summary 2 2. Land rights in customary/traditional systems, legal/formal systems, common property regimes, and gender issues; 3. Land identification methods in cadastral and rural jurisdictions and other situations; and 4. Information solutions for land administration. The publication is expected to be of great value to decision makers, researchers and all others in the public and private sectors charged with developing or implementing national land policies and the technocrats entrusted to develop and maintain land management information systems in member countries. The publication recognises the centrality of the knowledge economy in the global market. Today, the knowledge economy is primarily driven by information communication technology (ICT), which is dependent on the availability of optimum electronic (“e”)-infrastructure in the respective jurisdictions. Another central assumption of the publication is the fact that all material wealth derives directly or indirectly from land. With economic growth in African largely being driven by land based activities, the land sector therefore need to be brought into the prevailing knowledge economy by using the current technologies to better manage information about land in order to achieve sustainable, integrated management of land resources. However, Africa remains e-challenged and could therefore be easily left behind in the development of its knowledge economy and by extension, remain at the periphery of the global economy. This publication however points out that African communities have always practised some form of rudimentary knowledge economy throughout history, the lack of e-infrastructure notwithstanding. This has been done through various traditional methods of information gathering, storage and dissemination. It is these methods that need careful analysis and organized documentation by information managers to prepare ground for the harnessing by ICT once member States have sufficient e-infrastructure and funding. This will therefore help African states to maintain presence and participation in the global economy despite the prevailing challenge in e-infrastructure. The publication points out Africa’s unique circumstances in regard to the application of technology and modern land management information systems. There are ownership concepts only unique to some jurisdictions in Africa yet the design and development of the intended systems is driven from jurisdictions quite unfamiliar with such concepts. This therefore results in the development of systems inappropriate for some of the intended jurisdictions in Africa, leading to gaps or major limitations during application. To bridge this gap and help institutional and state land information managers identify and prescribe appropriate specifications to system developers, this publication has gone to some reasonable depth in identifying the unique challenges prevalent in most African jurisdictions. This includes the types of interests associated with land in Africa, the low levels of e-readiness, limited levels of technology and literacy and cultural and attitude barriers. The publication also points out the need to take advantage of some of the broadly spoken languages in Africa such as Kiswahili which could greatly enhance the participation of communities in information management at local levels and minimise barriers occasioned by the interface languages of systems found in most parts of Africa, English and French. Familiarity with the discussion on these limitations will help development partners keen in supporting the development of technological solutions for the land sector in Africa insist on the correct software and hardware specifications. The publication has suggestions on the possible way forward for member States, relevant to their circumstances. It points out the need to identify and tap the wealth of knowledge and authority resident in traditional authorities, be they leaders or institutions, local authorities or state organs with influence at the lowest local levels for the effective management of land information. It also emphasizes on the need to embrace low-technology solutions, essentially paper-based, provided focus is maintained on the need for the necessary transition to modern systems with time. Improvement of the access to affordable land information by rural land owners and other users at lower levels is underlined through a case example of the Bhoomi system of Karnataka State in India. This system, now driven through modern technology, evolved from a basic paper system. Though it, the community is served through land record kiosks spread around selected centres in the rural areas where farmers can verify land ownership and obtain certified copies of their 3 land records for their respective uses. Through it, transparency has been improved, costs of services brought down and corruption in service delivery greatly reduced. This should inspire member States in challenged circumstances today. For the more hands-on manager who would do with some technical depth, the publication dwells to some depth on the general subject of cadastres. There is some good treatment on the subject of land identification and boundaries. A basic discussion on maps and plans raises useful questions on the accuracies desirable and considered sufficient for proper land management. There is a very good treatment on the need to explore and identify suitable parcel identifiers appropriate for the jurisdiction of application and modern systems. The need to borrow from the “multipurpose cadastres” concept, which allows integrated land information management with different sub-systems developed for different functionalities, is discussed briefly. Where the system is designed as integrated subsystems, different parts of a country can place emphasis on different functionalities. The case of Botswana’s systems, one designed to address tribal land and the other to address state land, have been carried in the publication to exemplify this. The link between land management information systems and the Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDI) in each of the countries is clearly drawn within this section to help managers understand the complementary relationship between these two. To be able to fully tap the potential benefits of an effective land management information system in countries, the publication points out the need to build capacity through some well designed communication strategy. This should target user groups including communities, land owners, land administration managers, practising professionals, politicians, the media, civil society and academicians. Some thirteen broad principles listed at the end of the publication gives an overview of some broad concepts that system designers, managers, users and decision makers should routinely bear in mind in regard to land management information systems.

Authors and Publishers

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s): 
ICT, Science and Technology Division
Publisher(s): 

Established by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations (UN) in 1958 as one of the UN's five regional commissions, ECA's mandate is to promote the economic and social development of its member States, foster intra-regional integration, and promote international cooperation for Africa's development.

Made up of 54 member States, and playing a dual role as a regional arm of the UN and as a key component of the African institutional landscape, ECA is well positioned to make unique contributions to address the Continent’s development challenges.

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