Digital technology can play a key role in helping solve land management problems globally, especially in Africa where land conflicts persist.
This is according to land experts who made a presentation at the fourth Conference on Land Policy in Africa (CLPA) held in Rwanda’s capital Kigali, last week.
At a session on The Role of Open Data and Digital Technology in Property management in Developing World: The case of Rwanda, Fredrick Magina of the department of Urban and Regional Planning at Ardhi University in Tanzania, said open data and digital technology can help create effective property management in developing countries.
“Failure in proper property management can result in land-related conflicts,” said Dr. Magina, adding that African countries were rapidly urbanizing and therefore the quest for efficient property management in both rural and urban areas would continue to increase.
In reference to a study done in Rwanda’s Nyarugenge district within which Kigali sits, Dr. Magina and his fellow researcher David Mihio, a PhD student of Information Engineering in Surveying, Mapping and Remote Sensing, at the Wuhan University in China, said digital technologies like drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have contributed significantly to the land sector.
Specifically, the technologies help collect land-related information through photography for better and clear image analysis, as well as for demarcation of plot boundaries during land surveying and registration in existing land information system. They are also used in other sectors like construction and agriculture.
Rwanda is one of the few countries in Africa that has successfully delivered a digital land registry system to its citizens. The registry has been in place since 2008 and maintains records related to land occupation, land tenure and updates on any mortgages. This enables decision making on land ownership.
Dr. Magina noted therefore that open data and digital technology in property management was important for both rural and urban development of a country as it helps secure long-term land ownership, promoting stability among people living in communities. He adds that it has also helped significantly increase land ownership by women.
Among the challenges in managing property, according to the study, include financial constraints, lack of emerging technology experts and lack of community empowerment. This requires more training, among other efforts.
Based on the study, Dr. Magina recommends the use of emerging digital technologies to collect and store property data for future development projects and for smart city concept implementation; community empowerment in terms of technology skills to manage the use of new technologies; and open data systems related to land for transparency.
At the opening of the CLPA conference, Rwanda’s Minister for Environment, Jeanne D'Arc Mujawamariya, called on African countries to develop pro-poor land policies and inclusive land tenure rights, particularly for women and youth.
"We need commitment at the country and regional levels to ensure equity," Mr. Mujawamariya said, adding that anything related to land issues needs strong political will, people buy-in, and close collaboration.
The minister described how climate change had increased the risk of deforestation and land degradation and called for innovation in the implementation of land reforms and services.
The conference is organized biennially by the African Land Policy Centre, a joint initiative of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Union Commission (AUC) and the African Development Bank (AfDB).
This year’s theme was: “Land governance for safeguarding art, culture and heritage towards the Africa We Want”.
The Conference's theme aligns with the AU theme for 2021, "Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building Africa We Want". The conference focused on African heritage and cultural dimensions of land and the potential to secure livelihoods, economic growth, and sustainable development through the creative economy in both rural and urban settings.