We thank our departing board members, chair Timothy Fella and Dr. Ritu Verma, for their longstanding commitment to and support of the Land Portal. They helped guide the Land Portal through major growth and transition during the last six years, and their counsel has been invaluable in shaping our work. Dr. Elizabeth Daley, current secretary, will assume the chairship of the board.
We have no doubt that Tim and Ritu will remain key members of the Land Portal community, but for now, some parting words...
Timothy Fella has over 12 years of experience of working on land tenure and land administration issues around the world. He is currently the Global Business Development Manager at the geographic information systems company ESRI, having previously worked at Indufor and USAID among others. Mr. Fella has a Master degree in Social Sciences for International Development and Bachelor degree in International Relations.
Can you tell us how you became engaged with the Land Portal? Why were you so committed to the development of Land Portal over the years?
I have been working in the land sector for most of my career and initially discovered the Land Portal while doing research on land issues at a country level. The Land Portal provided a centralized location for land governance information, which prevented me from having to spend multiple hours searching many websites. Although that was my initial introduction to the Land Portal, once joining the Board I quickly gained an appreciation for the amount of work going on behind the scenes to enable that information to be standardized and discoverable. In many ways, what the Land Portal has built over the years is an information ecosystem around land issues that now serves as a public good.
It was through the Land Portal’s own experience with opening land data that they gained valuable experience that has been translated into different tools, including the “State of Land Information” and “Open Up Guides.” It has been great watching the evolution of the organization from an aggregator of land information to a thought leader around open data, and particularly as it relates to the topic of land. This includes developing experience and best practices around standards, metadata, issues of privacy, and discovering how best to package and deliver information so that it delivers knowledge on demand.
I was committed to the development of the Land Portal over the past six years because I felt the organization was addressing a critical gap in the sector. Many of our colleagues working in the land sector understand land from a social, environmental, or economic perspective but frequently lack understanding or appreciation for issues around open land data. The Land Portal fills this niche while also cultivating a rich ecosystem of information (research, metrics, news, events, careers, etc.) pertaining to the land sector.
What did you see as the major obstacles and constraints the Land Portal had to face during its journey?
The Land Portal has faced many obstacles and challenges during its evolution with one of the most pressing being related to sustainable long-term financing. The Land Portal has cultivated a vast community of users. Many of these users take for granted the extensive work (and investment) required to bring all the land data and information products together and make it discoverable and usable. Since this investment benefits all, and not a single project or program, it can sometimes be challenging for funding agencies to align it with their own funding requirements. Despite this challenge, we have been privileged to benefit from the support of many bi-lateral and multi-lateral funding agencies. Going forward, however, I do hope more organizations see the value of the information ecosystem the Land Portal has built and continue to find ways to support their important work into the future.
What would you consider some major achievements of the Land Portal?
Some of the most significant achievements of the Land Portal over the years have been the growth in its user base, the maturing of its information products, and its more recent engagement and influence with statutory land agencies at a national level. I believe the Land Portal has a lot of rich experiences around open land data that they can share with national stakeholders. And by extension, I believe open land data at a national level can contribute to increased economic activity, enhanced trust, and ultimately greater use of this foundational data at a national level.
As Chair of the Board for the past 3 years, what are some key takeaway messages from your experience?
Some of the key takeaways from my experience on the Land Portal board is that the organization punches above its weight, delivers value for money, and fills a very important niche in the land community. I ask the land community to take a closer look at the information ecosystem the Land Portal has created and recognize that it’s a public good that must be invested in over the long term. The Land Portal is nimble, is trusted, and is constantly evolving and any investment made in its work will be money well spent.
The Land Portal Foundation is pleased to welcome Dr. Cynthia Caron and Dr. Richard Baldwin to our Board of Directors for a three-year term. We thank our departing board members, chair Timothy Fella and Dr. Ritu Verma, for their longstanding commitment to and support of the Land Portal. They helped guide the Land Portal through major growth and transition during the last six years, and their counsel has been invaluable in shaping our work. Dr. Elizabeth Daley, current secretary of the board, will assume the chairship.