Open data to support tenure rights in East Africa

Thursday, 13th June 2019

At a workshop in Nairobi, stakeholders explore how open data can help secure land rights.

A major problem facing households in Africa today is their inability to have secured access to land and natural resources. The story of this disability is not recent in the development community. What seems to be new is the idea that open data can support community secure their lands and make land governance people centred.

Convinced that discussions with land actors could stimulate an open data culture in East Africa, the Land Portal Foundation, the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Local Development Research Institute (LDRI), the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) and Research4Life organised the State of Land Data & Information East Africa workshop in Nairobi, Kenya on May 8-10 2019.

Attended by 50 participants from the private sector, international and national civil society organisations, government institutions and the media, the workshop discussed how open data can promote accountability and support decision making processes. 

At the workshop participants debated how making data publicly available and usable supports securing and protecting of land rights, a key priority area of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

In the UN’s 2030 ambitious SDG agenda, it recognises that data sources, technologies and analytical approaches can solve global challenges effectively. One of such technologies discussed at the workshop is the International Land Coalition (ILC)’s LANDex. Presented in a high-level panel by Dr Ibrahima Ka, Programme Development, Research and Land Data Officer at ILC, LANDex is a tool for people-centred land governance monitoring, developed in consultation with ILC members and strategic partners, which uses 33 indicators to measure land governance.

“This is an important tool that will help to present evidence based on land policy,” he said.

Other discussions focused on:

The open data festival

On May 8 2019, LDRI hosted the open data festival, a social event on the eve of the workshop that brought together 50 actors with interest on how data can be used for development in Africa. Participants shared initiatives that could foster the culture of open data in the region. For example, experts from the Land Portal, ILC and the Africa Data Cube discussed how open data and other portals they developed are connected to the land and how citizens can make use of it to secure their land rights. 

State of open data

Recently, East African governments have been releasing large datasets to the public sphere, yet many people don’t have information about this data and how it can be used for specific purposes. On May 9 2019, the event uncovered where and how to find open land data and information networks in the region. Stakeholders exchanged information about sources of land data, who are involved in data production and sharing and property rights.

 The meeting follows the launch by the Land Portal of the “State of Land Information: Uncovering the Information Ecosystem” reports for four countries in East Africa, which aims to uncover the many different sources of land data and information in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Sudan. The reports map the landscape of data and information relevant to land in these four countries, assessing over 690 land resources from 317 different sources, to discover trends and gaps.

Legal research and open data

On Friday, May 10 2019, participants trained how to research and access resources and legal research. Kristin Kolshus, Information Management Specialist from Research4Life’s AGORA (Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture) showed participants how to access legal resources relevant to land, agriculture and the environment. GOALI (Global Online Access to Legal Information) was highlighted. Since several legal systems may exist, it is important to look at multiple sources of law and how they interact. Discussions focused on customary land rights, land tenure and gender in inheritance.

The meeting ended with participants identifying how open data can be better used to support livelihoods. They recommend setting up an open data community practice to improve the use of open data to support people centred land governance in East Africa. They further urged governments to recognise and adopt policies that enable open data to thrive.