The land sector is in the throes of the Global Data Revolution, which, of course, has created opportunities as well as challenges. Government data portals, open access academic journals, community mapping and other citizen-generated data initiatives create possibilities for inclusive and open approaches to data collection and management. But how can these opportunities be leveraged for real change and benefits to citizens?
More than 100 open data practitioners from governments, NGOs, academia, intergovernmental organizations and the private sector gathered at the University of Nairobi from May 8 – 10 2019 for the Workshop on the State of Land Data and Information in East Africa, to reflect on these and other emerging questions.
The workshop was co-hosted by the Land Portal Foundation, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO-Kenya), the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD), the Local Development Research Institute (LDRI), the Africa chapter of the Global Open Data for Agriculture & Nutrition (GODAN), and Research4Life, with the overall goal of uncovering the land data and information ecosystem in East Africa and fostering regional policy dialogue on access to land data.
The specific objectives of the workshop were:
- To uncover the land data and information ecosystem in East Africa;
- To raise awareness and build capacities of participants to increase access to and use of land data and information;
- To facilitate connections and cross-fertilization among data actors in the land sector and with other open data actors across East Africa and;
- To adopt and implement an action plan aimed at improving the East African land data and information ecosystem.
The workshop assessed the status of land data and information against the Open Data framework and the principles of findability, accessibility, interoperability, and re-usability. Participants sought to answer questions about: who can access data and by what means; how reliable is the data; who owns the data, how up-to-date is the data; and how can the data be used without inflicting harm?
The status of land data and information in East Africa
Two introductory presentations provided an overview of the status of land data and information in East Africa.
The first presentation reviewed open data initiatives in Africa that aim to foster the agriculture agenda; highlighting the importance of an enabling environment for improving availability of data; and identifying where governments and partners need to invest to ensure availability, access and use of data to promote agricultural development and food security in line with SDG2.LDRI’s work on the Malabo Declaration demonstrated challenges to fostering data availability in support of agriculture. To measure progress against commitments in the Declaration, LDRI commissioned an Open Data Study, which assessed 152 datasets drawn from data published by governments on national websites against 37 performance indicators, in four pilot countries. The study found that among these datasets, none of the countries had published all data online and where data was published, none was 100% open.
The second presentation reflected on the results of the scoping study on the State of Land Information in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Sudan. This was the first study to look at the entire landscape of data and information on key land topics in the region. It assessed over 690 land information resources from 317 different sources to establish trends and gaps in data availability and accessibility on the World Wide Web. The study found that the land information ecosystem in the region varies from country to country. Kenya and Uganda have robust land information ecosystems, while Tanzania and South Sudan lag behind substantially. However, even where significant progress has been recorded as in Kenya and Uganda, substantial gaps still exist. The four country reports have been published and are accessible through the Land Portal website. The reports recommend measures to be undertaken to strengthen the land data and information ecosystem in East Africa.
Towards a more robust land information ecosystem in East Africa
In group sessions and plenary discussions, participants identified enabling environment and human capital as the two critical factors for strengthening the land information ecosystem in the region. They resolved to:
- Establish a Community of Practice to facilitate continued engagement;
- Advocate for measures to advance the Open Data agenda in the land sector;
- Contribute to a regional policy dialogue to promote enabling environments for open access to land data and information;
- Strengthen institutional capacities to generate, manage and publish open land data and information; and
- Develop tools and share best practices to manage risks associated with open access to land data and information.
Training on accessing land related information
Kristin Kolshus conducted a half-day training on the last day of the workshop to introduce participants to four Research4Life programmes that facilitate open access to information resources and legal research on land. She instructed participants on how to subscribe to the programmes, and took them through a practical session on accessing information resources and legal research related to land online.
In the Q&A session following the training, participants highlighted three critical challenges to accessing and using legal information, namely: the technical language of legal documents; protection of individual rights to privacy and property, and the reality of legal pluralism. They called for legal information to be availed to the public in language and form that they can easily access and use; for the need to balance individual rights to privacy and the public interest in information about land distribution, for customary land rights to be formally recognized by law, and for more research and advocacy on the same.
to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
Minjire, D.: “How Open is the Data for the Africa Agricultural Transformation Scorecard?” Local Development Research Institute, Nairobi, March 2019.
There is no doubt the Global Data Revolution has reached the land sector. Government data portals, open access academic journals, community mapping initiatives and other citizen-generated data - there is a palpable positive drive across the world that allows processes such as data collection to be more inclusive and open.