During the UN World Data Forum 2023 in Hangzhou, China, I had the opportunity to participate in the Global Data Barometer Measuring the state of data for public good and the achievement of the SDGs, which the Land Portal Foundation organized together with the Open Government Partnership (OGP), the Open Contracting Partnership, and Open Data Watch (ODW).
This event presented the Global Data Barometer as a multi-dimensional index that assesses countries worldwide against a set of metrics focused on data for public good. I showcased the role of the Land Portal in this partnership and the links to land governance.
The issue of land tenure and governance is one of the most complex and multifaceted challenges that face policymakers and practitioners in the development field. This is especially true when it comes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as there are more than a dozen land-related indicators housed over five SDG goals, with data maintained by different custodian agencies.
The Land Portal is a leading advocate for open land data driving progress in improving access to land-related information, engaging stakeholders, and supporting actions that help information providers and governments make data more open and accessible. However, despite the growing attention driven by the SDGs momentum, most land data remains fragmented, incomplete, scarce, and inaccessible.
In the 2019 State of Open Land Data chapter, it was concluded that when it comes to data on land tenure, land use, and land transactions, we often face a situation of lack of transparency, patchy, overlapping and chaotic datasets and data systems. Despite significant investment in land monitoring by donors, governments, and the private sector, very little data is openly available.
This is not surprising if we recognize that land data is different from other data. Land data, especially land tenure data, are often stored in outdated, pre-digital information systems, reflecting patterns that have evolved over many centuries, with overlapping tenure systems and, in some countries, still including feudal structures, traditional rights, customary rights, leaseholds and freeholds.
The good news is that the relationship between the open data and land communities has developed over the last four years, and continues to grow. This has led to a fruitful collaboration with the Global Data Barometer (GDB) in recent years to co-develop the Land Module of the GDB - tracking the state of land information and measuring the openness of land data.
Compared to the previous Open Data Barometer, which only looked at national cadastral and land registry data, the Global Data Barometer data has brought a significant improvement in the measurement of land data. Looking primarily at tenure and land use data as well as the use of data for policy change as well as the capacity of governments to publish and release data and the existence of an appropriate data governance framework. This has created a much better baseline for monitoring land data around the world.
Looking ahead, the Land Portal would like to continue the fruitful collaboration with the GDB by further enhancing the land module and better aligning it with the work of the Land Portal on tracking the state of land information to create an index that includes other data categories that belong to the modern land administration theory, namely land value, land development, which together with land use and land tenure would cover the main functions of land administration in most countries.
With better data, governments and donors will be in a better position to invest in the technical infrastructure for land administration and to work in partnership on land data projects. This will help to improve the technical infrastructure for land administration and provide a better understanding of the challenges facing land governance, tenure security, and access to land-related information.
Overall, the Land Portal's commitment to open land data is a crucial step towards achieving the SDGs and promoting responsible land governance and secure tenure rights for all. By working together, we can drive change and make progress in improving access to data and engaging government and data custodians in data conversations.