Participatory land administration is a construct that seeks to contribute to responsible, fit for purpose, and pro-poor approaches to land administration [8
]. Traditional land administration approaches have been deeply rooted in western approaches and views on land management based on the state’s responsibility to collect and manage land information. These have however ended up failing most of the population, especially in developing countries, as societal and cultural considerations are ignored in favour of complex legal and professional standards.
2.1. From Voluntary Geographic Information to Participatory Land Administration
The participatory element adds to emerging approaches that challenge traditional land administration approaches. Participation in some circles is considered as a source of power [23
], for others it is simply the ability to contribute [24
], or a multi-way set of interactions among citizens and other players to produce an outcome [25
]. Smith [24
] considers participation as a stepping stone to enhance effectiveness of outcomes, resolve conflicts, enhance public knowledge and understanding, and establish legitimacy and trust. Participation in geo-spatial science stems from the increasing need for local knowledge in a field that has for many years been dominated by professionals, who carried out their tasks per strict standards and quality assurance specifications. This brought about a new approach to mapping—Participatory Geographic Information Science (PGIS) or P-Mapping, involving citizens depicting the features of their environment on the ground, on paper or on satellite imagery with the help of professionals who guide the standards of the entries. The technological innovations in the 21st century expanded the direct involvement of local people to include several other location-based services mostly due to Geo-Spatial Web 2.0—a collection of online location-enabled services and infrastructure [27
]. This brought about a new vista for PGIS known as Voluntary Geographic Information (VGI)—the collecting and editing of digital spatial data by people responding to an open call, with little or no formal qualifications, willing to share their spatial knowledge and information [29
]. Although VGI and PGIS share the common aim of involving local people, Fast and Rinner [32
] and Song and Sun [33
] differentiate between the two, with PGIS being traditionally established and controlled by someone with the skills and knowledge in organizing and presenting spatial information with imposed constraints. The basis of VGI is rooted in neogeography and crowdsourcing. Neogeography, on one hand, is the way people represent portions of the earth surface in their own way, alongside or in the manner of professional geography, making it personal, expressive, and although not reaching professional standards, does not render it of no use to geo-sciences [34
]. Crowdsourcing, on the other hand, is seen as the process of harnessing the diverse potential of large groups of ordinary people in the collection and aggregation of data [36
]. The basis of crowdsourcing is a grassroots-based approach that is often initiated to challenge formal approaches and offset its constraints and inadequacies. Many therefore view VGI as having a higher participation than PGIS, as the public has a greater control over the process. However, VGI for land administration is still a debated issue.
The success of crowdsourcing geo-spatial information in disaster management [37
], identifying land use patterns [38
], road map production [39
], among others, has led to exploration on how crowdsourcing can be applied to land administration. In an attempt to improve upon traditional land administration processes, initial studies into crowdsourced land administration looked at an approach of citizens directly capturing, maintaining, and disseminating information on land rights [41
]. However later studies stressed on the importance of reliability and accuracy of land information as an aspect of public administration, as opposed to the initiatives into crowdsourcing such as openstreetmaps and wikimapia [43
]. To maintain the reliability of the information, some suggest the use of local Trusted Intermediaries (TI) [44
]. Furthermore, a pure crowdsourced approach to land administration which will rely on the strong relationships within local communities, is likely to produce a record of land rights that are outside the existing formal systems, limiting the ability of the people it serves to take advantage of some of its benefits [46
Later contributions to the subject take a hindsight cue from Turner [35
] to look theoretically at how communities outside the state based land administration system record and maintain their land rights. De Vries et al. [15
] characterizes this as the “Neo-cadastre”—the manner through which land holders and users indicate their land tenure rights and boundaries based on their personal views outside of state-based institutions. The impact of the Neo-cadastre has been largely speculative. Whilst de Vries et al. [15
] contend that it will not challenge the traditional land administration systems within the foreseeable future due to its lack of standards, Schaefer & Schaefer [47
] rather indicate the eventual need for the government to accept it when it reaches a critical stage. Neo-cadastre therefore shows the ability of local and indigenous people to devise their own ways of recognizing their land rights, and a new approach of land registration should also take that into consideration. The nature of land administration as a public administration activity, dealing with the management of sensitive information, citizen contribution requires some form of regulation and guidance at varying levels as found in PGIS, but not to the standard of traditional land administration. This is what this paper describes as Participatory Land Administration (PLA).
2.2. Aspects of Participatory Land Administration
Participatory land administration encompasses four aspects drawn from conventional, responsible, fit for purpose and pro-poor land administration, seeking to create a meeting point for the top-down traditional and bottom-up crowdsourced land administration. These four aspects are the top-down institutional (government and professional) influence, the bottom-up citizen contributions, the push of technological innovation, and the pull of societal needs (Figure 1
). Traditional land administration focuses on a top-down approach, with the government authorities and the professionals as the main contributors to land administration using strict standards with high accuracy and high-end equipment regardless of the societal needs and make up. Participatory land administration sits at the nexus of the drivers of technological innovation and approaches to development studies. The drivers of technological innovation in the last few decades have strived to strike a balance between the role of innovations in science and technology on the one hand, and an acknowledgement of a broader set of market features on the other hand [48
]. The former, known as technological-push, advocates that innovation should be dictated by the technologies available, with little consultation with the end beneficiaries. The later acknowledges a broader set of market features including the needs and characteristics of the end beneficiaries that affect the performance of the technology known as the demand or societal-pull. This combination of the technological-push and societal-pull is deemed necessary as the two interact. It is seen that the societal-pull policies also aid in inducing and directing innovation to be closely aligned with the societal needs. However, studies into this area have mostly focused on leveraging this relationship to commercialize successful innovations, rather than the harnessing of emerging technologies to ease the approaches to services, such as land administration, in the direction of the clients it serves [50
]. The new approaches to development studies, also a construct of the last few decades, is in response to local and regional development policies responses to peculiar territorial challenges [51
]. These approaches have questioned the sustained ability of the conventional top-down approaches to policy development. These new approaches therefore merge the macro and micro economic theories behind top-down approaches led by the government and professionals with meso-local concepts that inform bottom-up development strategies from the local people. Ghawana et al. [50
] describes how the harnessing of technology-push and demand-pull approaches can support research and development in land administration research and development, making it more visible to key stakeholders and enhancing its applicability by making it more innovation oriented. However, they fall short of incorporating the stakeholders in their model. Rahmatizadeh [17
] also conceptualizes the use of VGI in land administration, focusing on the top-down and bottom-up interaction of the actors and legal restrictions.
Participatory land administration encompasses the above approaches to innovative land administration and relies on the consideration of both the interaction of the key actors in the top-down–bottom-up approach for social inclusion (Figure 1
—vertical aspect), as well as the technological-push and societal-pull drivers to innovation (Figure 1
—horizontal aspect). In this regard, participatory land administration’s aspects are the institutional influence (comprising the top-down influence of government and professionals and the bottom-up contribution of the citizens), the push of technological innovations, and the pull of the society’s needs that form the basis for undertaking land administration.
Conventional land administration is dominated by high professional standards and strict legal requirements that have long been established, the key actors being the professionals and government actors. The acceptance of this approach has been rooted in the trust lent to it by its proprietors as well as its sustainability. Although, as this strict approach has largely failed in 70% of the world [52
], and a citizen-led approach has been advocated by innovative approaches, PLA acknowledges the need for significant level of standards and regulations needed in the land administration process for the land rights captured to be seamlessly integrated in the formal system.
This acknowledges the potential for the involvement of the local people and other relevant stakeholders in land administration activities, through carefully negotiated arrangements that ensures clear roles, rights, and responsibilities of the involved parties, and not just by way of consultation in the actual implementation. It allows process to take the local people’s complete land tenure arrangements, social cultural relations, and peculiar societal needs into account. This also allows for the local people to feel a sense of ownership to the land information to enable them to build trust in it. By allowing for some oversight by local Trusted Intermediaries, information that are contributed are verified and substantiated. Trusted Intermediaries are key members of the communities who are deemed knowledgeable by the community members of the local traditions and land ownership and can aid in substantiating land rights claims in the area.
A partnership is therefore created to balance the institutional influence of the government and professional’s top-down approach, as well as the emerging bottom-up approaches that is empowering citizens.
The pull of societal needs is can be derived from the partnership relationship to determine the land administration goals. There is a need to identify the societal needs of the communities that the land administration seeks to serve, which will then judge the amount and depth of land information needed. These societal needs include, among others, land tenure security, taxation, support to a land market, food security, and climate change adaptation [20
]. These will judge the amount of the information needed.
The push of technological innovations to aid land administration activities stemming from the societal needs and the balance that is achieved between the government and the other stakeholders, needs to be pro-poor [7
]. That is, it must be accessible and affordable to the local people, it should can support the local land tenure system, transparent and inclusive of all the people involved.