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Open Data Securing Property Rights

Over the last decade, open government data has gone from a nascent concept to full scale implementation by local, regional and national governments. However, as government agencies invest significantly in open data programs, some have been disappointed by the lack of data use. On the flip side, potential users of the data claim that the data is incomplete (particularly relating to the most valuable components) or isn’t usable. According to these stakeholders, the data doesn’t have characteristics that reflect the specific tasks that they want to accomplish. These characteristics may manifest in features such as the content of the data, format, accessibility and licensing options. To understand the full potential of open land information, we would like to close this gap between the supply and demand side of data use. We have worked to develop user personas to aid in the identification of property rights datasets that solve the existing problems of real users — be it government officials, NGOs or the private sector.

Typically, user personas describe a few key groups of users of a product and represent real people with backgrounds, goals, and values. As outlined in our Risk Assessment Process, we’ve ultimately defined the user persona as an individual or stakeholder group that would engage with open datasets related to land and resource rights for a specific purpose. We’ve grouped these user personas based on their characteristics and identified how their aims align with our vision for open property rights data.

User Personas Categories

Private Sector  | Property Owners  |  Public Interest Organizations  |  Government



IIIn The Mystery of Capital, Hernando de Soto proposes that what keeps poor countries from gaining wealth is an inability for people to leverage assets — such as their property — for reinvestment back into the market. Therefore, while private sector actors range in their individual motivations, their use of property rights data is crucial to ensuring these transactions occur. Their actions contribute to facilitating land transactions that can potentially increase the tenure security and economic value of a property for individuals and communities, or perhaps increase the tax revenue of government to the overall benefit of the population. Indicative actors include: Land developers, Surveyors, Real estate investors, Insurance companies, Financial institutions, Appraisers and Open data archetypes.


Financial Institution

Kishana, a bank employee in Jamaica, needs to verify a land title prior to processing a loan application for a proposed buyer. She needs access to data from the land registry to ensure the seller holds a title, assess existing mortgage information and verify any encumbrances on the property. If the information she has is not up-to-date and accurate with a government guarantee, the transaction is at risk of not being processed.

Data Needs:

  • Access to data on individual properties
  • Data coverage throughout country
  • Date of registration
  • Transaction history
  • Owner name
  • Mortgage
  • Tenure Type
  • Boundaries, size, structures

Examples:

  • The National Land Agency currently grants access to the eLand Jamaica system through a pay-for-access subscription service. Financial institutions make up a large portion of their subscribers. Employees from financial institutions may access the online portal to find the title, mortgage information as well as any additional transactions that have been lodged on a property.


Real Estate Professional

Erin is a real estate professional driving around Wellington, NZ showing a client properties. She needs to be able to see transaction history and cadastre data for all properties for sale within a neighborhood as well as neighborhood demographic information while she is out viewing homes in market.

Data Needs:

  • GIS data
  • Data coverage throughout city
  • Access to aggregated neighborhood data (ie. median home prices, school districts)
  • Access to data on individual properties
  • Transaction history
  • Boundaries, size, structures, zoning information

 

Examples:


Open Data Startup

Mary wants to start MyHome.info, a startup company in the U.K. She wants to create a consumer-facing platform that will give property owners and land professionals information to help them make legal, planning and land-use decisions, such as aid in deciding what type of structures to build or how and where to install infrastructure (ie. water, cable). She needs cadastre data and some datasets from the land registry with the ability to layer geographic datasets on as much of the U.K. as possible.

Data Needs:

  • GIS data
  • Data coverage throughout country
  • Transaction history
  • Tenure Type
  • Boundaries, size
  • Structures, number of rooms and bathrooms, and interior area
  • Zoning information

Examples:

  • In Sweden, Ledningskollen.se combines property information with land planning information to help property owners determine where on their property is it safe to build.

Individuals or communities with an interest in a specific piece of land — be it proprietary ownership or any other right to use — need access to land registry and cadastral data to carry out activities that are central to the foundation of land ownership. To name a few examples, individuals may need access to land data to pay property taxes or aid in the registering of a piece of property or to take out a loan. Making these processes easier for property owners through an increase in accessible data on parcels and titles has many benefits for strengthening tenure security and increasing wealth opportunities for average individuals. It not only helps owners leverage their immovable assets into capital, but can also help keep government information up-to-date, providing necessary legal protections in the event of a land dispute. 


Community Leaders

Esther is a leader within the Chara community in Kenya and is responsible for the governance and administration of her community’s lands. She wants to ensure that the outer boundaries recognized by the Kenyan government in the cadastre and land registry are accurate so as to give the community more legal protections against encroaching neighbors as well as better manage allocation of lands. Esther has some access to internet as there is a computer in the Chief’s office.

Data Needs:

  • Access to data on own community lands and neighbors
  • Boundaries, size, structures
  • Tenure Type
  • Multiple access points (online, in-person)

Examples:
Community mapping is considered one of the first steps to ensuring formal legal protections for community lands from neighbors or private sector interests.


Individuals

Elka’s mother has just passed away, but did not set aside any specifics within her will on who will take over the family home in Tbilisi. Elka needs to go through the legal procedures to transfer the property into her name, but wants to verify the legal standing of the title in the land registry as the specifics of the rights and restrictions to the land are currently unknown.

Data Needs:

  • Access to data on individual property
  • Owner name
  • Parcel number, address
  • Registration date
  • Transaction history
  • Boundaries, size, structures
  • Mortgage
  • Tenure type

Examples:

  • The online property registry is unified under the Georgian National Agency of Public Registry (NAPR). Information on titles can be accessed and registered through their online database or in-person. A system in which individuals can access title information on particular parcels is common elsewhere, with varying fee structures or administrative processes.

Public interest organizations use government records and data to uncover violations of human rights, misuse of public funds and otherwise illegal or unsavory activities on the part of corporations or governments. There are documented use-cases of journalists and NGOs using land and property data to expose corruption by public officials, such as money laundering, or the illegal use or expropriation of lands by governments and the private sector. For NGOs and journalists, more transparency and data on any of the processes at the intersection of government and the private sector provides an opportunity to expose corruption and potential abuses of property rights, advocate for change and provide support to vulnerable populations in legal disputes.


Journalist

Yulia is an independent journalist in Russia investigating the flow of illicit funds leaving Russia and entering the U.S. property market. Although Yulia isn’t very technically savvy, she has a developer who can help her analyze large online datasets from the land registry. As an independent journalist, Yulia cannot pay for access to databases and must be discreet in her research.

Data Needs:

  • Data coverage throughout country
  • Access to data on individual property
  • Accountability datasets (asset declaration disclosures, beneficial ownership data and public company registries)
  • Owner name
  • Type of owner (corporate, individual)
  • Parcel address
  • Registration date
  • Transaction history
  • Tenure type

Examples:


NGO

Alex is a researcher for a natural resource monitoring group currently working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She wants to use geographic information from the cadastre to document the reach of extractives, its effects on the environmental deprivation of the country and potential illegal use of land for this purpose. She needs the ability to add map layers that show the potential infringement or overlap of the land and resource rights of indigenous communities with commercial or government interests.

Data Needs:

  • GIS data
  • Data coverage throughout country
  • Natural resource and coverage layers (ie. forest lands, palm oil suitability and logging, mining and oil concessions)
  • Access to data on community lands, protected lands and public lands
  • Boundaries, size
  • Tenure type
  • Type of owner (corporate, individual)

Examples:

  • Moabi DRC is an independent initiative monitoring natural resource use in the DRC. They have integrated dozens of map layers on natural resource use, including the boundaries of indigenous lands into one platform. Similar projects include: OpenOil and Natural Resource Governance Institute’s (NRGI) resourcecontracts.org.

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Increasing data interoperability, accessibility and sharing between government offices can lead to more complete and better quality data as well as advance overall efficiency with minimal resources. Many government offices beyond the land agency office use data from the land registry and cadastre to provide services or carry out their functions, such as utilities management, tax offices and emergency services to name a few. A survey of federal agencies by the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) in the U.S. found that 16 of 30 agencies surveyed had an identified need for national-level cadastral data, including information on use, value and ownership. The increased coordination of government offices with respect to data sharing and release can lead to better resource management and more cost-efficient services, increased tax revenue and better quality services

Joan- Tax Agency


Tax Agency

Joan, is a civil servant working for a county tax department in the United States. She wants to create an online system to make it easier for people living in her county to pay their property taxes in hopes of increasing the overall tax revenue, increasing the reliability of valuation data and cutting down on administrative costs of collection. She needs cadastre and land registry data on her entire local jurisdiction in a format such that it can be combined with other publicly-held datasets.

Data Needs:

  • GIS data
  • Data coverage throughout region
  • Annually updated data
  • Owner name
  • Parcel number, address
  • Registration date
  • Boundaries, size, structures
  • Mortgage
  • Tenure type
  • Transaction history

Examples:

  • In St. Louis County, Minnesota in the U.S., taxpayers can search for their parcel using an online interface and pay their property tax through that system. The web tool allows people to search for their property by address or parcel ID to see how much tax they owe based on their current assessment and gives them the option to pay online.

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Emergency Services

Kara is a 911 dispatcher in rural Pennsylvania. She receives a call from a woman who is afraid her husband is suffering from a heart attack. She needs access to cadastre data to be able to quickly locate the precise address and location from which this woman is making a call to send an ambulance to her aid.

Data Needs:

  • GIS data
  • Immediate access to data
  • Data coverage throughout region
  • Access to data on individual properties
  • Parcel addresses

Examples:

  • In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) needed property ownership information to verify that victims resided in impacted areas in order to disburse emergency funds. In many parishes, the parcel data didn’t exist or governments were reluctant to release it, which led to delays in disbursements and the use of less accurate measurements.

graphics_Alex copy


Planning Agency

Mira works for the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) and needs to identify palm oil smallholders to make government subsidies and services available to them to make their production more competitive with large producers. She needs information from the cadastre on land ownership, size, land use and type of agricultural production from the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment.

Data Needs:

  • Data coverage throughout region
  • Access to data on individual properties
  • Boundaries, size, structures
  • Owner name
  • Type of owner (corporate, individual)
  • Natural resource and coverage layers (ie. forest lands, palm oil suitability and logging, mining and oil concessions)

Examples:

Beyond the tax and land agencies themselves, many other government agencies, have uses for having shared access to interoperable property rights data for policy planning and compliance purposes.

  • According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FLDEP), the agency could save approximately 15,070 man hours per year with access to local government parcel data by reducing the number of site visits by staff and the ability to locate owners of impacted properties.
  • In a recent project with Land Alliance, elections agencies in Kyrgyzstan looked to the land registries to find addresses to aid in registering citizens to vote.

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