Mainstreaming Spatial Data Infrastructures in Land
Management and Administration
David N. Siriba1 and Hussein O. Farah2
Department of Geospatial & Space Technology
University of Nairobi – Kenya
Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD)
While Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDI) play a much broader role than supporting
land administration, land administration is considered a key driver in SDI evolution.
However, in most cases the development of SDI is not aligned with the development
of land administration and management systems. In order to determine how to
mainstream SDI in land administration, a framework for the integration is required, so
as to exploit the potential benefits of SDI in supporting more effective and efficient
This study identifies opportunity areas in land administration systems where SDI
would play an important role and highlights the particular SDI elements that would be
considered and how they need to be structured/ implemented in the context of land
administration systems. The elements include: the recognition of SDI in supporting
land administration; the development of infrastructures versus business systems; the
role of parcel layer in SDI and the hierarchy and dynamic nature of SDI.
Keywords: SDI, Land Administration, integration framework, mainstreaming
Several strategies have been used to ensure that the potential in land information
is exploited, and also that it is well managed. The strategies for land information
management have evolved from mere computerization of cadastral records through
computerized land information systems (LIS) to the current Spatial Data
Infrastructure (SDI) initiatives, which are expected to enhance efficiency and
effectiveness in the process of determining, recording and disseminating information
about tenure, value and use of land.
Although the introduction of computerized land information systems and SDI are
generally accepted as the most appropriate technologies in the reformation of the
cadastral systems and land administration, it however will not automatically induce
development. It is part of the institutional development that must be combined with
other resources such as planning controls to give high quality results. Towards
realizing this, the provision of online databases for land information by governments
is therefore seen as the ultimate reformation of cadastral systems and by extension
land administration and management within the framework of the Spatial Data
Infrastructure, one of the e-government strategies. The problem however is that,
SDIs in some jurisdictions are considered as new concepts and therefore not aligned
with other information management systems, for example, land management
information systems. Budhatholic and Nedovic-Budic (2006) observed that SDI
development efforts are excessively driven by either technology or application and
are therefore unlikely to become fully operational and serve the expected purposes.
This is the basic problem addressed in this study, with the objective of developing a
conceptual framework for mainstreaming SDI is land administration.
2. Land Management and Administration and Spatial Data Infrastructures
Land management, the process by which the resources of land are put into good
effect (UN-ECE 1996) encompasses all activities associated with the management of
land and natural resources that are required to achieve sustainable development.
The key components include land policy, land administration and land information
infrastructure (Enemark, 2004).
Dale and McLaughlin (1999) define land administration as "the process of
regulating land and property development and the use and conservation of the land,
the gathering of revenues from the land through sales, leasing, and taxation, and the
resolving of conflicts concerning the ownership and use of the land." Like the UN-
ECE, Dale and McLaughlin identify ownership, value, and use as the three key
attributes of land. Actually land administration functions can be divided into four
functions: juridical, fiscal, regulatory, and information management. The first three
functions are traditionally organized around three sets of organizations while the
latter, information management is integral to the other three components" (Figure 1).
Figure 1: The four basic components of land administration (Steudler et al., 2004)
Juridical Fiscal Regulatory
Component Component Component
(Ownership) (Values) (Use)
Information Management Component
Various approaches have been used for information management, but the more
recent are the e-government strategies. The e-government strategies that
jurisdictions have put in place are meant to improve delivery of services, manage
information and to tap potential synergy from the interaction between the strategies
and an educated population. Some of the strategies include the advanced ones such
as the provision online database of geoinformation for example geodetic, cadastral
and topographical by government agencies through SDI.
As SDI become the dominant mechanisms that countries are putting in place to
achieve their geospatial information management, it has however been noted that
most countries are faced with difficulties in designing appropriate spatial data
infrastructures to support effective land administration, and in integrating cadastral
data and topographic spatial data especially in topographic form (Parker and
Enemark, 2005). There is therefore need to design, build and manage land
administration systems which incorporate appropriate spatial data infrastructures,
because land administration functions are based on and are facilitated by appropriate
land information infrastructures.
Though there are different land administration arrangements in different
countries, Williamson (2001) proposed a range of “best practices” that are useful in
undertaking the re-engineering of land administration. The principles are considered
major components of a land administration and they provide a suitable basis for
identifying indicators and establishing the evaluation aspects for land administration
The cadastral template (Steudler et al., 2004b), which provides a framework for
evaluating land administration and therefore the basis for improving land
administration is limited because it focuses more on cadastral aspects. An evaluation
of the cadastral arrangements from various countries that have responded to the
cadastral template reveals that SDI is yet to be recognized as an enabling platform
for land administration. Although many of the 40 countries that have provided their
cadastral arrangements recognize the role of cadastral layer in SDI (Steudler, 2006),
by the same token a quick analysis of the operational SDI nodes (FGDC, 2007)
shows that out of the 442 nodes in the GSDI registry, less than 5% SDI nodes
support land administration. Therefore, it is yet to be understood how SDIs are
integral in land administration arrangements.
To develop an integration framework, it is important first to understand the
complex relationship between cadastral, land administration system and National
SDI. Rajabifard and Williamson (2006) developed a model that shows the integration
of foundation data in a National SDI facilitates better decision making in disciplines
such as Land Administration. Therefore, the information infrastructure/ management
component of land administration systems provides the interface with SDI as
illustrated in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Relationship between SDI and Land Administration
Attribute Attribute Attribute
Information Information Informatio
on land on land n on land
Ownership Value Use
Spatial Data on Land
Spatial Data Infrastructure
Built data Other Data Natural data
3. Integration Framework
Integration Framework enables the integration of applications and data across the
extended enterprise, thus maximizing an agency’s ability to improve operational
efficiencies. In this section, are identified the elements that needs to be addressed in
order to mainstream SDI and land administration.
While most SDIs are nearing their completion stage, most of them will however
require re-engineering in order to transform them into SDI capable of providing
services demanded by current and future users. In order to re-engineer SDI so as to
support land administration, it is important to evaluate them in terms of efficiency and
effectiveness. An evaluation of efficiency refers to the measuring of an SDI to
determine if it is achieving its objectives in the most economical manner, while
evaluation of effectiveness refers to the measuring of an SDI to determine if it is
achieving its goals along with having the predicted impact on society. Against this
background, Giff (2006) and Eelderink et al. (2006) proposed a number of
performance indicators (PI) and key variable that can be used to assess, evaluate
and report on National SDIs. Among them, availability of digital data, capacity
building, willingness to share, human capital, SDI awareness, delivery mechanism,
funding, leadership, vision, institutional arrangement, socio-political stability,
interoperability, metadata (availability) and initiatives connected to SDI in the
A number of items can be used to assess SDIs and they include: the status of
geospatial datasets, status of GDI technology, status of geoinformation policy, status
of institutional arrangements and the human resource capacity. Masser (1999)
identified three elements that are key to successful National SDIs: the identification of
core datasets for wide range of users; development of meta-datasets and a co-
ordination framework to develop the infrastructure. Crompvoets (2004) additionally
emphasizes the inclusion of web services in SDI. Najar et al (2006) extends the
specialized framework for evaluating land administration to SDI, in which about 16
indicators were identified, which include among others: quality and consistency of
spatial data, reference data, conceptual model for SDI and geo-web services.
In order to mainstream SDI in land administration, first, it is important to determine
the aspects/elements of SDI that can be taken advantage of, to facilitate land
administration. Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDI) principle is one of the toolbox
aspects identified by Steudler et al. (2004) that can be used to evaluate land
administration systems. This study build on the work done by Steudler (ibid) and the
aspects include: the recognition of SDI in supporting land administration; the
development of infrastructures versus business systems; the role of parcel layer in
SDI and the hierarchy and dynamic nature of SDI.
3.1 Role of SDI in supporting Land Administration and Management
In most cases the difference between SDI and LIS/GIS is not clear (Nedovi_-Budi_ N.
and Budhathoki, 2006). Whereas in some cases the two are taken to be
synonymous, elsewhere they are understood to be different, in which case, then
there is often the question, which one comes first? While GIS is a specialized
information systems that manages, manipulates and analyzes spatial data (LIS is a
special GIS that deals with parcel data), SDI provides a base or structure of practices
and relationships among data producers and users that facilitates data sharing and
use. Therefore SDIs are established to facilitate and resolve various technical and
non-technical obstacles to data sharing. SDIs are therefore easier to build from the
substantial interorganizational GIS base
In land administration and management, the strategies have evolved from mere
computerization to the current SDI initiatives (see figure 3).
Figure 3: SDI and Land information management
Computerization Computerized e-government
In SDI, there should be nodes dedicated to land administration and management,
in which case, the already existing LISs should be restructured to be included in the
SDI or for the ones planned to be established, they should be structured so that they
can easily be incorporated (Figure 4). The role of SDI in land administration is to
provide a platform for sharing of data/information for land management and
Figure 4: Land information management SDI node and other SDI nodes
SDI LIS SDI
3.2 Role of Parcel Layer in SDI
Cadastral data is one of the framework data identified by many jurisdictions
because it provides thematic information and also provides a framework for
integration. The role of the parcel layer in SDI depends on how the cadastral map is
used for national, state, or local land information systems, and if it is used additionally
for other purposes, for example utility mapping, sustainable development or other
Administrative boundarie(s) is one of the core data in the SDIs and it must be
coordinated if effective data integration and analysis is to be realized. However, most
organizations have established independent administrative, planning and political
boundaries that rarely coincide. In most cases though, cadastral/ land parcel is used
as the bottom layer in GIS analysis.
The spatial hierarchy problem, which is about incompatible boundary alignment,
has been addressed differently. But (Eagleson et al., 1999) proposed model where a
cadastre, common to all states, provides the foundation for delineation of boundaries
with the national boundary at the top level of the spatial hierarchy.
3.3 Development of “Infrastructure” Vs Business Systems
As initially conceived, SDI had the main objective of ensuring that users are able
to acquire, at the right time, complete and consistent geospatial data sets of the
highest quality, which focused on “infrastructure”. However, currently, there is a
paradigm shift - from data to service, similar to what Todd (2005) refer to as a
Service Oriented Spatial Infrastructure. This shift in focus will ensure that SDI is an
integral information infrastructure for governance (De Man, 2006). Typical services
include tasks performed by humans and those performed by computers. Within SDI,
system functions used within a service could be available at different SDI nodes,
thus ensuring that business services are incorporated. If SDI is to be integrated with
LAS, then SDI must support business systems and therefore business systems
become the driving force behind the development of SDI.
3.4 Hierarchy and Dynamic nature of SDI
SDI is dynamic in nature and unless it is conceived and constructed on the basis
of some model, it will remain largely independent of land administration systems.
Figure 5 relates the components of a land administration system (LAS) and those of
SDI. To achieve effective integration, these components need to be aligned properly.
Figure 5: Land Administration System (LAS) and SDI
Land administration functions Services
Information Infrastructure Technology
Land Policies Policies
Institutional framework Institutional framework
At the bottom of figure 5 is the institutional framework for both SDI and LAS,
which considers such aspects as how is the SDI/LAS to be organized? and whether
and how to involve the private sector? SDI is not solely for land administration, there
has to an agreement with other participating organizations on the structure. Since in
most countries LAS have been in existence, the organizational structure of SDI
should be similar to the one for LAS and evolve with it. This will avoid a situation
where, say LAS is centralized, while the SDI is decentralized.
Whereas integrated land management depends on land policies laid down in the
overall land policy laws such as Land Registration, Planning/Building Acts, SDI
policies are meant to facilitate effective and efficient spatial data management, and
address issues like: public access to spatial information, data privacy and security,
copyright, cost recovery among others. Therefore during the preparation of SDI
policies, reference has to be made to the existing land policies to avoid possible
conflict and duplication.
Land information infrastructure (LII) as the other component that supports land
administration functions, corresponds to data and technology components of SDI.
While land information infrastructure includes cadastral and topographical datasets
and the provision of access to complete and up-to-date information about the built
and natural environment, SDI considers data as the main subject and the technology
to facilitate the access to the data. Effective SDI depends on standardized data sets
and interoperable technology. To mainstream SDI in LAS, either the SDI adopts the
data models and technology used by LAS or otherwise.
At the highest level of figure 5, are the land administration systems functions and
services for LAS and SDI respectively. LAS are implemented to support land tenure,
land value, land use and land development, while in SDI, services are the basic units
of processing that are considered to make available operations; they are a collection
of functions, organized in such a way that they exhibit behaviour of value to a user
(Morales, 2004). In designing and implementing SDI, the land administration
functions should be designed and provided as SDI services.
4 Discussion and Conclusion
SDIs are indispensable in Land Administration Systems. As LAS and SDIs
continue to evolve, there is need to design and implement them in a way that takes
advantage of each. This study has identified aspects both in SDI and LAS that can
provide basis for integration, and these include: understanding the role of SDI in land
administration, the role of cadastral data in SDI, shift of focus from ‘infrastructures’ to
services (business systems) and the hierarchy and dynamism of SDI and LAS.
While the role of SDI in land administration cannot be over-emphasized, during
the design and implementation of SDI, a number of nodes have to be established
that support land administration functions. As much as it is appreciated that cadastral
data supports many functions, this can only be possible by developing a reliable and
cadastral database, where data for the database from different sources need to be
Where the systems are not aligned, there is a likelihood of conflicts and
duplication. Therefore, to ensure that SDI is mainstreamed in LAS, the following
aspects need to be aligned.
• LAS and SDI Institutional framework
• Land policies and SDI policies
• Land information infrastructure and SDI data and technologies
• Land administration function and SDI services
In conclusion, this study has only identified the general aspects that need to be
addressed as attempts are made to mainstream SDI in land administration. Specific
issues will depend on specific country cases.
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