An Overview of Property Rights Data

Cadasta Foundation, in partnership with Open Knowledge International, is exploring land data with the ultimate aim of defining open data in land and resource rights for the Global Open Data Index and the wider land sector. For more information on the project, check out our open data page and previous post here.

Given the broad scope of land governance, the conception of what property rights data actually is varies widely. Environmental NGOs may think natural resource concessions, while agricultural ministries may think subsidies to local farmers, and real estate agents might think property values, the average homeowner might think of the details on their title or deed — and these examples represent only a few actors within the space. Before determining what data should be open, we have to clarify what property rights data is and the reality of the quality, accessibility and sensitivity of this data on a national level.

Based on our research, we have identified three core land information aspects- cadastral data, registry data, and tenure type. In theory, these datasets should be common across all land information systems, however, the disparities and diversity between land administration systems and contexts can make these commonalities difficult to draw. One key disparity, and a cause of confusion among different stakeholders using land data, is the different land and resource cadastres. In our analysis of different aspects of land information data, we detail why we are focusing on these components and what we mean by each.  

When looking at just the land cadastre and registry, there is still not a common national-level repository where all the data is stored. In Brazil, land management responsibilities are divided among the federal union, states and municipalities with only property rights data for rural lands available in the centralized national land registry and cadastre. A separate agency all together is tasked solely with administering customary lands to the quilombo communities of formerly escaped African slaves. Having all the information described above, even if it requires looking at several agencies and jurisdictions to find it, is still a best case scenario. Often the data simply doesn’t exist, biasing any measurement of open data in land ownership toward countries with statutory and established land administration systems.

Finally, the disparities in the broader country-level context needs to be taken into account when advocating for open data. Opening up data in a small, largely egalitarian long-established country with strong governance, such as Sweden, has very different risks and implications than in emerging economies where vulnerable population’s property rights often are not documented.

Our Property Rights Data Overview and the supplementary resources to be released in the coming weeks, detail our process to address these contextual nuances toward a definition of open data that supports Cadasta and Open Knowledge International’s core commitment to people before data. We hope the Overview will be a core resource to the open data and land rights communities and so we’d encourage your feedback on it to inform our further research. Check it out and stay tuned.

Lindsay is a research fellow at Cadasta, working to discover the intersection between open government data and securing property rights. She is particularly passionate about user research, human-centered design and civic tech projects. Lindsay is a proud native of the DC area and holds degrees in Russian Language and Philosophy from the University of Virginia.

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