Open Data and Land Governance: Moving Towards an Information Ecosystem | Land Portal
Contact details: 
Neil Sorensen,


There are many sources of information about land, but their visibility, accessibility, consistency and completeness vary enormously. Increasing access to existing information by linking this information on land together, actively addressing gaps in the available information, and providing a range of ways for the information to be accessed and shared will increase the use and usefulness of the available information, will support more informed debates and policy making, and encourage greater adoption and up-scaling of best practices and promising innovations, leading to improved land governance practice.

In October 2016, The Land Portal undertook a gap analysis to evaluate the quality of the standards used by institutions and organizations in the land sector for their websites, finding that there is no common standard for using keywords to classify land-related data. The analysis found that most organizations classify content in isolation, using incomplete and inconsistent terminology that is not designed to be endorsed or re-used by others, identifying a clear need to establish a standardized approach in the land sector to harmonize and strengthen interoperability and common understanding of terminology.

The Land Portal responded to this gap by developing a standardized vocabulary specifically for the land sector. LandVoc - the Linked Land Governance Thesaurus that makes it possible to create comprehensive and standardized metadata - the information that describes web resources and is what search engines ‘crawl’ for – substantially enhancing the discoverability of information. LandVoc is multilingual and identifies synonyms and hierarchies among terminologies, thus simplifying the process of finding relevant information. Its development process aims to include and translate local land related expressions, thus enabling connections between local information sources and other more technically oriented material.

The Land Portal intends to use LandVoc as a building block of an information ecosystem on land governance. The Land Portal sees LandVoc as a crucial component of in helping partners of DFID’s ‘Land: Enhancing Governance for Economic Development’ (LEGEND) program to achieve its aim of using knowledge and capacity for design and delivery of new country programs, improve land governance as an essential and inclusive basis for economic development, and strengthen land and property rights at scale.

In September 2016, the Cadasta Foundation and the Land Portal Foundation teamed up to facilitate a discussion on open data and land governance, in which many Legend partners participated. The aims of this discussion were to gain a better understanding of the current landscape, identify potential impacts and risks and illustrate the unique challenges in opening land data. The discussion gave a much clearer picture of the experiences of numerous experts in the land sector in working on and advocating for more open data systems.

Participants recognized the need for open data needs to be accessible by targeted user groups in the format they need it, whether it be a shapefile for a researcher or free data for a smallholder farmer. There were also calls to take a more sophisticated approach to capturing and understanding land rights and interpreting land data. Throughout the debate, participants highlighted the need to balance openness with the rights of communities and indigenous peoples, such as through free and prior informed consent. Debate participants concluded that while very important, this does not replace strong land governance institutions. There was a strong emphasis on the need to move beyond simply putting data on a platform to emphasizing the need to change the behavior of those in positions of power.

This workshop will provide participants with a global perspective of open data its importance, while delving into some of the outcomes from the discussion and implications for land governance. Participants will learn about different kinds of open data, from national cadastral systems to global databases, and the elements that are necessary to take a standardized approach, including the use of metadata and standardized vocabularies. Participants will have the opportunity to explore practical implications of open data for their own organizations and define steps towards creating their own open systems.

Objectives of the Workshop


  • Present the work of the Cadasta Foundation, the Land Portal Foundation and the Land Alliance, Inc. and Southern partners in working towards an open data system.
  • Explore possibilities for the Legend partnership to jointly advocate and promote open data and metadata about other information sources.
  • Assess organizational approaches of Legend partners in using standardized vocabularies and explore the potential adopting LandVoc among Legend partners as the basis for the information ecosystem on land.



  • 8:30-9:00 AM: Networking Breakfast
  • 9:00 AM - 9:15 AM: Keynote Speech by Michael Jarvis, Executive Director of the Transparency & Accountability Initiative
  • 9:15 AM -9:30 AM: Presentation of the outcomes of the debate on open data and land governance by Frank Pichel, Chief Program Officer for the Cadasta Foundation
    • Overarching themes
    • Challenges / Impacts
    • Complexities
    • Risks / Benefits
  • 9:30 AM - 9:45 AM: Presentation from the Land Portal on linked open data and LandVoc - the Linked Land Governance Thesaurus by Laura Meggiolaro, Land Portal Coordinator
  • 9:45 AM - 10:15 AM: Lightning Talks  on how organizations are using open data in their work and are contributing to the information ecosystem.
    • Malcolm Chldress from Land Alliance, Inc, featuring the Global Property Rights Index (PRINDEX)
    • Pranab Ranjan Choudhury, Vice President of the Center for Land Governance in India 
    • Raquel Ludermir Bernardino, Habitat for Humanity International
    • Abhinav Bahl, Open Government Partnership
    • THY Try, Executive Director of Open Development Cambodia
    • Juan Pablo Chumacero, Instituto para el Desarrollo Rural de Sudamerica (IPDRS)
  • 10:15 AM - 11:15 AM: Interactive Workshop
  • 11:15 AM - 11:45 AM: Open Data and Land Governance Declaration
  • 11:45 AM - 12:00 PM: Wrap Up


Interactive Discussion


Participants will be split up into three groups of 8-10 people and assigned one of the FAIR Principles of Open Data - Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable.

These groups will be further divided into groups of 2-3 people each, with a laptop. Each group will look at three different websites and assess them according to one of the FAIR principles. Each of the small groups will report back to their larger group on their findings. One person from the larger group will be selected to report back to the plenary on the outcomes. 


Open Data and Land Governance Declaration

This final session of the workshop will be an open discussion aimed at creating a declaration among Legend partners and others to officially endorse Open Data principles and support existing efforts towards adopting open data standards and tools in their work.

The declaration should also include a commitment/endorsement by DFID to have Open Data as one cross-cutting  thematic focus of the future LEGEND work.

The discussion will be based upon a prepared draft, but the outcomes will be open for alteration and discussion based upon the results of the workshop.

The declaration will be delivered to the Legend partners meeting for consideration and official adoption.

Target audience

Legend Partners taking part in the World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty 2017 are the target audience of this workshop.  

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