When Cadasta Foundation was launched in late 2014, the organization’s initial focus was to design and build an open source platform for partners to collect, analyze, store, and share data on land and resource needs. The platform was designed to be used with minimal technical support. However, our experience working with partners in the field highlighted the need for a refined strategy to better meet their needs. These needs include assistance with designing data collection forms, developing workflows, aligning processes with national and international standards in land information, and training staff. Further, we found that any improvement of the platform and development of new features must be driven directly by the needs and input of our partners if it is to be truly relevant and useful.
Key learnings from the first years of operation have led us to realize the need to shift resources into providing more support to potential platform users, while continuing to serve them with open access to technology. This approach has allowed us to test our value and assumptions, and ensure software development is driven directly by partner input.
In the third quarter of 2017, an independent technical assessment of the platform was performed. This review led us to consider integrating third party software components into the platform to improve scalability and performance while, at the same time, alleviating some of the development burden on the Cadasta team. Third party components would focus on replacing the existing spatial component, leaving the user interface largely unchanged, as well as protocols for storing non spatial data.
Following a call for proposals in August 2017, Cadasta reviewed offerings and drew up a detailed cost-benefit analysis for each offer, projecting not just immediate costs, but also potential long-term maintenance and support costs. Cadasta is currently negotiating with the highest scoring vendor to ensure a cost effective, scalable, and secure integration. The key concerns and aspects of consideration in reviewing potential software offerings are partner ownership of data, unrestricted import and export of data, adherence to open standards, and assurances that costs are not passed on to partners.
Cadasta anticipates finalizing negotiations early in the first quarter of 2018. In the interim, the Cadasta software development team has focused on reducing the technical debt, and increasing the performance and scalability of the platform for more widespread adoption in the future, based on the recommendations outlined in the independent assessment. Issues being addressed in the interim focus on the software components that will remain, following integration with any third party components.