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Technological solutions for citizens’ participation into cadastral mapping

Lookup NU author(s): Dr David Fairbairn, Kaizer Moreri, Professor Philip James


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It is recognised that comprehensive, consistent and definitive land records in the form of an effective land administration system (LAS) is a pre-requisite for good social order and economic progress. Unfortunately, only a minority of nations possess such a system. Although some shortcomings can be blamed upon corruption, inefficiency, and lack of political will, it is also lack of resources which can lead to problems. Notably, the sub-optimal state of the mapping and spatial data components of a LAS, usually embedded in a formal cadastral mapping system, can lead to poor service to both citizen and state. The rise in interest in citizen-sourced data can lead to potential improvements in LAS. National governments are not the sole repository of accurate and up-to-date geospatial information, and volunteered geographic information (VGI), citizen-sourced data, is already being profitably used in GIS and mapping projects. This paper examines the possible functions of VGI in the mapping and geospatial data handling sections of a cadastral mapping agency, and proposes solutions to some of the technical problems which adoption of VGI may reveal. Referring to a case study in Botswana, the merits of citizen- and volunteer-sourced data are considered, along with improved methods by which the citizen can access the cadastral system for informative and/or land transaction purposes. The current procedures in Botswana rely on local Lands Boards, operating at a District level. These hold information about land inventories, land parcels and tenure in registers which are primarily descriptive. The system is complicated by varying patterns of land ownership – significant proportions are held as Tribal Land, and as state land, as well as a small amount of freehold property. Further, most land parcels are not registered or mapped in detail until they are subject to the land-holder (or prospective land-occupier) planning some development. Although map data is supplied to the Lands Boards by the national Department of Surveys and Mapping, their remit is to produce topographic mapping, and the maps held by the Lands Boards for the purposes of documenting tenure are limited. In most cases, boundaries of land parcels are purely descriptive, held in text form. The experience of working LAS is that map documents are useful (but not always necessary) for ensuring effective land registration. Interaction of citizens with LAS is improved when maps are available for information, confirmation and overview of neighbourhood relations. Maps and aerial images are of value if and when citizens are asked for their definition of land holdings: community meetings around large scale maps and imagery can be an effective means of establishing property boundaries. Methods of geospatial data collection by citizens are valuable if they have access to sufficiently precise and accurate positioning devices, including GPS-enabled smartphones. Novel geospatial data processing may be required to ensure integration and alignment of VGI and official geospatial data. Even the establishment of a parallel citizen-sourced cadastre, perhaps more effective than traditional government systems, can be envisaged. Further, recognition of information derived from VGI-based data can be examined, ranging from tacit acceptance that there is some merit in an alternative system, to full government guarantee of title based on VGI. Data outputs to a range of platforms in different scenarios can also vary depending on the nature of the data and the rigour of its application. The final management of any resultant LAS which incorporates VGI must be considered also: traditional systems are perceived as being remote, secretive, corruptible, expensive to access, whilst a citizen-based cadastre could overcome these negativities. These issues in geospatial data handling are addressed in the case study, the central role of mapping is stressed, along with the potential importance of the citizen.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Fairbairn D, Moreri K, James P

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: 27th International Cartographic Conference

Year of Conference: 2015


Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9788588783119