Designing all-inclusive land administration systems: A case study from Colombia

J.M. Morales Guarin*, C.H.J. Lemmen, R.A. de By, Alvaro Enrique Ortiz Davila, Mathilde Molendijk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
147 Downloads (Pure)


Significant numbers of undocumented people-to-land relationships exist in countries around the world. They constitute a barrier to sustainable development. To register these relationships, a paradigm shift is required. Instead of following traditional, formal, costly, and time-consuming workflows, the focus should be on simple, flexible, scalable, affordable, inclusive, participatory, reliable, attainable, upgradeable, community-based, and standards-compliant methods and technologies that support land registration. Conventionally, collection of land data is carried out by specialists who use sophisticated survey equipment and highly elaborated attribute forms, with criteria based on regulations which commonly focus on the fulfilment of technical standards. To achieve documented land rights for all, revolutionary approaches are required that produce land administration more rapidly and efficiently than what present professional organizations can deliver today. Data acquisition procedures must change, be simple, comply with societal needs, support data collection by citizens and allow proper scaling out. Our solution has the functional ability to collect data based on a predefined data model that captures required characteristics and constraints associated with land registration. Landowners and other rightholders and community members can collect the data themselves under the supervision and guidance of land professionals. To realise this solution, we worked with Esri, the leading GIS industry solutions provider. We use a cell phone app connected to an external GPS receiver to collect polygons as the primary spatial element to represent land units. This configuration silently registers accuracy data on the surveyed vertices of the polygon. This data is needed for the generation of a cadastral data set during postprocessing. During the survey, geometric and administrative data are collected simultaneously. All types of people-to-land relationships can be captured: formal, informal, customary, etc. Since the community actively participates in the data collection, several activities are organized by land professionals to ensure that predefined methodological requirements are met. The participation of the whole community also results in a gender-friendly procedure. Since every landowner/rightholder surveys her/his own land, boundaries between neighboring parcels are collected twice. In practice this may lead to gaps and overlaps between the surveyed spatial units. A customized library of functions is used that transforms surveyed data into topologically valid representations of real-world spatial units in a semi-automated way. Subsequent community validation is organised in a public event where neighbor landowners/rightholders check and approve their shared boundary with a digital signature or a digital fingerprint. Authorities also use the public event to check and validate identities, neighboring relationships and supporting evidence. Just like the data collection, the data validation procedure requires robust but simple technology. The last step in the process leads to the recordation of various people-to-land relationships in the official government systems. During legal analysis, the evidence provided by citizens is combined with the evidence available in the government information systems to determine the official type of right for each relationship. Governmental information systems need to be adapted to properly store a full continuum of rights, which in turn requires new legislation to be in place. In this way, the government obtains a comprehensive overview of the status of land rights, which allows better planning and decision-making. And it empowers the government to protect citizen land rights. The system uses a multi-level data model based on the Land Administration Domain Model (LADM). These levels are: data collection, post-processing, validation, and recordation. The data complies fully with the LADM standard and with the corresponding country profile. A number of areas in Colombia with different land rights structures have been used as case study for experimental and validation purposes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105617
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalLand use policy
Early online date29 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • Fit-for-Purpose
  • Recording land rights
  • Polygon-based mobile data collection
  • UT-Hybrid-D


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