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Global Challenges for Land Administration and Sustainable Development

Ian Williamson

May 2007, English

An important government activity of all nation states is building and maintaining a land administration system (LAS) with the primary objectives of delivering sustainable development, particularly by supporting an efficient and effective land market. This includes cadastral surveys to identify and subdivide land, land registry systems to support simple land trading (buying, selling, mortgaging and leasing land) and land information systems to facilitate access to the relevant information, increasingly through an Internet enabled e-government environment. For most countries a cadastre is at the core of the LAS providing spatial integrity and unique land parcel identification in support of security of tenure and effective land trading. For many cadastral and land administration officials and for much of society, these are the primary, and in many cases the only roles of the cadastre and LAS. However the role, and particularly the potential of LAS and their core cadastres, rapidly expanded over the last couple of decades and will continue to expand in the future.

But what is a land market in a modern economy? Since LAS were developed, land commodities and trading patterns have undergone substantial changes: they are now complex, corporatized and international. Are our current LAS designed to support a modern land market that trades in complex commodities, such as mortgage backed certificates, water rights, land information, time shares, unit and property trusts, resource rights, financial instruments, insurance products, options, carbon credits, salinity credits, corporate development instruments, and vertical villages? Modern land markets involve a complex and dynamic range of activities, processes and opportunities, and are impacted upon by a wide range of restrictions and responsibilities imposed on land especially since WW II. These restrictions are continually evolving, primarily in response to economic, energy and sustainable development objectives. These developments are made more complicated by changes in information and communications technologies.

One commodity in particular—land information—has the ability to transform the way both governments and the private sector in modern economies do business. The e-land administration concept as part of e-government initiatives is now being replaced by iLand—a new vision for spatially enabled land information. Land information, together with a jurisdiction’s spatial data infrastructure (SDI), now has the potential to transform the way a modern society functions: how tax is collected, how heath services are delivered, how the environment and our cities are managed, how we respond to emergencies and terrorism, and how elections are run. Linked to these transformational technologies, such as Google Earth and Microsoft’s Virtual Earth, or to location enabled platforms, land information has the potential for spatially enabling governments and societies in ways never imagined.

At the same time, the global challenge of sustainable development is causing its own problems and placing new demands on LAS, SDI and the resulting land information.

The challenge now rests with land administration administrators around the world to capitalize on the opportunities provided by LAS, new technologies, modern land markets, iLand and SDIs to better deliver sustainable development.