On the design of a modern and generic approach to land registration: The Colombia experience

J.M. Morales Guarin, C.H.J. Lemmen, R. de By, Mathilde Molendijk, Ernst-Peter Oosterbroek, Alvaro Enrique Ortiz Davila

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A significant number of undocumented people-to-land relationships exist in many countries; they constitute an important barrier to economic development, especially that of rural areas. Although countries often have established procedures to register these relationships, typically, procedures involve outdated, costly and time-consuming workflows, and in many cases, require workflow resources that are simply unavailable. The vital, underlying technology and standards to collect and manage the required data are complex and sometimes inaccessible, or if available, tools do not comply with adopted (inter)national standards. If we continue down this path, the registration of undocumented people-to-land relationships will take significantly more time and money than governments are willing to afford and be held responsible for.
While each issue mentioned above presents a substantial challenge, it is only by addressing them holistically that a significant impact can be obtained. Using the post-conflict Colombia as a pilot area and fit-for-purpose land administration as philosophy (FIG/World Bank, 2014; UN Habitat/GLTN/Kadaster, 2016), we have developed and tested a simplified, communitybased, standards-compliant methodology and supporting technology, to register people-toland relationships in a fast and economically viable way.

A country cannot afford to be non-compliant with the ISO’s 19152 standard, which defines a reference land administration model (LADM). Its adoption, however, adds a whole level of complexity to existing procedures. We therefore developed a multi-level data model based on LADM, in which each level is optimized for the procedural step where it is used. These steps are: data collection, post-processing, validation and recording. At the end of the last step the data complies fully with the standard and, in the case of Colombia, with the corresponding country profile. The developers of this profile made relevant observations for the development of the second edition of LADM — commented in this paper.

Conventionally, in countries with very traditional institutions like for example Colombia, land administration data collection is carried out by specialists who use sophisticated measuring equipment and high-detail forms following a multi-purpose cadastre philosophy. We propose a multi-layer approach in which the base data on people-to-land relationships is collected first, and then data associated with other land administration aspects is optionally added as part of
normal government agencies operations. For the data collection, we worked with Esri and Trimble and developed technology that satisfies two intrinsic objectives. The first is to create the ability to collect data that meets the requirements of the data collection data model, and the second is to install the ability in landowners/rightholders and community members to collect the data themselves. Contrary to conventional point-based land surveys, our data model uses polygons as the basis of surveying. In addition, geometric and legal data are collected simultaneously, and this includes evidence documentation. All types of people-to-land relationships are captured: formal, informal, customary, etc. Since the community is responsible for the data collection, several activities are organized to ensure data collection is carried out according to ethodological requirements. A data collection plan is devised to allow multiple survey teams (five were used in the pilot tests) to work in parallel over a period of a week to cover a complete administrative area.

Since every landowner surveys her/his own land, boundaries between neighbouring parcels are collected twice. In practice, during a survey either neighbour aims to approximate the boundary by staying on her/his own property and maximising land extent, which may lead to little intersection between the surveyed baoundaries. Also, points where multiple people-toland relationships converge are surveyed multiple times. To generate the dataset that complies with the post-processing data model, we developed a customized library of functions that are used to transform surveyed data into topologically correct representations of real-world land parcels in a semi-automated way.

Traditionally, the quality of the surveyed data is determined only by the accuracy of the observations made. Since we do not follow such a classical approach, we included an additional validation step that is executed in a public forum to which the community is invited by the local authorities to corroborate the results of the post-processing. During this forum event, neighbour landowners or right-holders check and approve their shared boundary with a digital signature. This procedure uses a big screen so that results are openly presented for the whole community to witness and comment on, making the procedure fully transparent. Authorities also use this forum to check and validate identities, neighbouring relationships and supporting evidence.

The last step in the process leads to the recording of different types of people-to-land relationship in the official government systems. This step includes the legal analysis of the evidence of rights provided by the citizens and the evidence existing in government information systems to determine the official type of right for each recorded relationship. Some of the peopleto-land relationships can be immediately formalized and lead to land titles. Others fall into different categories of rights that require some kind of follow-up procedure, but they can potentially lead to a title also.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2019
Event8th Land Administration Domain Model Workshop 2019 - Istana Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Duration: 1 Oct 20193 Oct 2019
Conference number: 8


Workshop8th Land Administration Domain Model Workshop 2019
Abbreviated titleLADM 2019
CityKuala Lumpur
Internet address


  • Land administration
  • LADM
  • Colombia
  • App design


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