This short, desk-top study investigates and reviews how technology is
being used in developing countries to promote transparency around land
acquisitions. This includes reactive solutions to identify and highlight
what land acquisitions have taken place and proactive solutions that
promote and protect land rights from future land acquisitions.
The convergence of global crises in food, energy, finance and the
environment has driven a dramatic revaluation of land ownership as
powerful transnational and national economic actors tap into lands
outside and inside their own borders to provide food and energy security
at home. The phrase ‘global land grab’ has become a catch-all phrase to
describe and analyse the current explosion of (trans) national
commercial land transactions. Around the world, various state, corporate
and civil society groups have reacted, albeit in different ways. Some
see this as a major threat to the lives and livelihoods of the rural
poor worldwide, and so oppose such commercial land deals. Others see
economic opportunity for the rural poor, although they are wary of
corruption and negative consequences, and so calls for the improving
land market governance feature prominently.
A number of emerging technology trends were identified as being used to
- Free open-source systems
- Cloud computing
- Web- and mobile phone-based information services
- Support of social and customary tenure
- Open government policies
Examples are given of projects capturing data around land acquisitions,
using reactive or proactive solutions. Initial lessons learned include:
- All initiatives that have adopted a ‘top down’ approach to large scale
land acquisitions (LSA) data collection have found it difficult to
obtain and maintain the corresponding information from governments and
the organisations (local and foreign enterprises and foreign
governments) involved in land acquisitions. It is now clear that a
more successful approach to LSA data collection should also include a
‘bottom up’ component of crowdsourced data from other stakeholders,
including those on the ground.
- Those initiatives that have found global platforms to promote their
issues, either loss of land rights or planned LSA, have attracted
international support for their predicament.
- Ushahidi, the open source activist mapping' that is extensively used
to support disaster management and recovery, is also being used to
record crowdsourced information about land incidents. This solution
could provide an excellent early warning system for land issues.
- Those proactive initiatives that are capturing existing land rights to
promote and protect the ownership and use of land by communities are
being successful by empowering the communities, supported by NGOs, to
directly capture the land rights data themselves. The technology
toolkits being applied to these applications are being designed to be
simple to use and involve innovative solutions to counter the lack of
mobile phone coverage in remote areas.
- Increasingly, pro poor approaches to the capture of land rights in
developing countries are being adopted. These are participatory,
affordable and equitable. These approaches will accelerate the
security of tenure for vulnerable communities in developing countries.
- Crowdsourcing in land administration is another technique that could
accelerate security of tenure in developing countries and help to
safeguard communities’ land rights from LSA.
The embryonic nature of these initiatives leaves a number of critical
challenges to be resolved; especially around authenticity of information
and sustainability and scalability of the initiatives.
McClaren, R. Technology to promote transparency around land acquisitions. Evidence on Demand, UK (2013) 36 pp. [DOI: 10.12774/eod_hd031.feb2013.mclaren]