FOSS 4G – Open Source and Open Data for Land Administration

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the FOSS4G (Free and Open Source Software for GIS for the uninitiated) conference held in Bonn, Germany. As it was my first FOSS4G conference I wasn’t sure what to expect, nor whether property rights would even figure into the conversation given the diverse background of participants. I was pleasantly surprised to find that many of the key issues we’ve been working on at Cadasta factored into so many discussions at the conference and in this niche of the GIS community. It is great to see open source technology for property rights becoming an issue that is not relegated to a handful of individuals working in the land administration sector.

Some of the technological developments that we’ve been exploring within the property rights context at Cadasta were prominently featured. For example, the opening session included a round of lightning talks, with one focusing on blockchain applications for geospatial information, and property rights as a primary use case. The use of blockchain, the distributed database made famous as the main technical innovation in Bitcoin, in land is something we’re considering as well. In fact, GIM Magazine had just posted an article that I’d written regarding how the technology might be applied to land administration.

The second day of the conference featured a lab on Open Source Opportunities for Land Management, intended to be an open dialogue by interested parties. Unsure what the turnout might be, I was thrilled to see a fairly full room, with attendees coming from a range of backgrounds but all with an interest  in how property rights might be documented.  A recurring theme during this discussion – and indeed during a number of side conversations over the course of the week – related to the role of open data in land information, an  issue we’ve been focused on at Cadasta over the course of the last six months. Clearly this question of open data in land information is gaining recognition, and I hope that the work we’ve been doing to assess open data in property rights will add context and further the discussion.  And hopefully inspire people to participate in next month’s land debate on the subject!

Finally, we also had the opportunity to showcase our work, a dedicated session on Land Administration was held  in which Cadasta presented the existing open source tools we use for data capture.

All in all, a useful week, and great to see property rights continuing to gain recognition for its importance to the global development agenda.  I’m particularly excited to individuals from diverse backgrounds interested in, and proposing solutions to, land administration challenges.  The efforts and innovations needed to close the gap in documenting land and resource rights for that 70% +of the world’s citizens left out of the formal system can only be addressed through a coalition of specialists from diverse backgrounds.