OKCon 2013 Guest Post: Open Data Portal on Land Rights

Cross-posted from the OKCon Blog.

Introducing a series of guest posts by OKCon 2013 speakers that we will publish over the coming weeks. This first post is by Laura Meggiolaro, Land Portal Coordinator, International Land Coalition, who will be speaking on the main stage during the Open Development and Sustainability session on Wednesday 18th September at 10:15.


logo-land-portal-transparenThere is a wealth of information and data online about land governance. However, much of this content is fragmented and difficult to locate, and often it is not openly licensed to enable wide dissemination and reuse. Bringing this information together in one place, actively addressing gaps in the available information, and providing a range of ways for the information to be accessed and shared does increase use of the available information. This supports more informed debates and policy making, and greater adoption and up scaling of best practices and promising innovations, leading to improve land governance practice. Through a focus on localisation of content creation and use, the Land Portal aims at tipping the balance of power towards the most marginalised and insecure, promoting greater social justice in land tenure practices across the world.

Access to knowledge is essential for individuals and communities seeking to secure land rights, particularly for women. Stronger networks between government agencies, CSOs, and emerging social movements are needed to support more just, equitable and gender aware land governance. Over recent decades land governance groups have come to use the Internet in their practice, but it’s full potential is by no means realised. The land Portal can support land advocacy and governance, drawing on learning from current practice, and highlighting emerging frontiers of relevance to the field. Recent online dialogue that focused on monitoring women’s land rights in Madagascar demonstrated that the Land Portal as a platform for open content and open data offers a collaborative approaches to land governance.

As Madagascar has recently been debating its new progressive tenure reform, it provides an interesting case study to show how internet-based tools such as the Land Portal gives the opportunity – provided the basic infrastructure is available and those accessing it have functional literacy skills – to enhance participation and allow for diversity of insights and perspectives on questions like “is land reform in Madagascar a model for replication?” or “how legal pluralism may restrict or promote women’s access to land?”.

Over the last years we found out that online discussions, in particular, are effective means to promote inclusion, knowledge sharing and promote social changes.

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The discussion on “land reform” had the objective of involving civil society to debate experiences of the land reform implementation and which key lessons could be transferred to other countries. The more recent discussion provides an interesting insight of how women’s access to land might be affected by a legal pluralism. Insights from Malagasy people or land experts in region aimed at revising and improving data on the FAO Gender and Land Rights database (GLRD).

The LP is based on open source, open data and open content and applies principles of openness in its governance, its use of technology and in its outputs. Through the pursuit of more transparent and open information on land governance the Portal seeks to become a leading example of open development in action. However, the Land Portal does not adopt openness uncritically, but instead focuses in particular on identifying where openness can help tip the balance of power in favour of the marginalised, rather than where openness could ‘empower the already empowered’ (1.). Land Portal seeks to ensure that a diversity of knowledge is included and represented, and that those best placed to act in the interests of those with the most insecure land rights and the greatest vulnerability to landlessness have effective access to the open data and knowledge that is made available.

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Besides documenting land rights, the Portal also encourages social information exchange, debate and networking. It aims at becoming the leading online destination for information, resources, innovations and networking on land issues; support more inclusive and informed debate and action on land governance and increase adoption and up-scaling of best practices and emerging innovation on land tenure.

The Land Portal is a partnership project supported by a network of international and grassroots land organisations focussed on land governance, development and social justice. Its innovative approach to engaging stakeholders on the highly complex issue of land governance ensures that the Portal is coordinated, managed and populated with content by the stakeholders and users who are actively involved with land from far and wide.


(1.) Gurstein, M. (2011). Open data: Empowering the empowered or effective data use for everyone? (2.) Link to article


With almost 10 year work experience in the land governance sector collaborating with both UN Agencies and Civil Society Organizations in information and knowledge management, partnerships building and communication for development, Laura is strongly committed towards social change and the improvement of life conditions of disadvantaged groups within societies, focusing in particular on gender dynamics.
Since she has been assigned the overall Land Portal coordination in 2012, she has been leading an in deep project self-assessment and promoting a major re-development of the Portal to better address its main target audiences, respond to the ever-evolving technological innovations and opportunities for better quality and reach, but also to increasingly make the Portal a hub for Open Data and a clear example of open development in action contributing to open land governance information and knowledge in order to increase transparency on land related issues.