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UNECE confirms need to accelerate digitalization in land administration but warns of data security issues and digital divide  

Aerial view of urban and rural landscape

Technology and digitalization are reshaping the land administration undertaken by governments to manage land and cadastre registries and tenure rights. With this fundamental work key to all planning in both cities and rural areas, for land and property-based taxation, and vital in the fight against fraud and corruption, UNECE experts and partners have stressed the need to better harness benefits – including efficiency, public accessibility and stronger cross-sectoral governance – of digital approaches while minimizing risks in terms of cybersecurity, data privacy and ethics concerns and ensuring that no-one is left behind in the digital shift. 

These are among key findings of a report developed by UNECE jointly with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Federation of Surveyors (FIG), which informed discussions in Geneva at the 13th session of the Working Party on Land Administration of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) – the only permanent intergovernmental body in the UN focusing on land administration and land management.  Digitalization, reinforcing data security in the land administration sector and applying innovative tools to strengthen security of land and housing tenure were high on the agenda as governments in the pan-European region and North America looked to strengthen policy approaches in this critical area.  

The report “Digital transformation and land administration – Sustainable practices from the UNECE region and beyond” examines the state-of-play and future directions for digital transformation in land administration in the UNECE region and beyond. Learning from the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, where many countries in the region already had digitalized services in place, it stresses that digital disruption – i.e., transformation of established business models and services following application of new innovative digital technologies and platforms – has become the “new normal” for land administration organizations. In this context, digital disruption is recognized as an opportunity for these services to leverage IT infrastructure investments, fast-track e-conveyancing, become more data-driven, and support innovation incubation hubs, to better meet government, public and business needs and fully harness the contribution of sound land administration to sustainable development.  

At the same time, the report also raises concerns regarding cybersecurity, data privacy and ethics, open data, artificial intelligence, robotics, digital collaboration, innovation incubators, and crowdsourced data. It further highlights the challenges of the digital divide – which became especially visible during the pandemic – and calls for investment in measures to address gaps, including in terms of gender equality, and meet the basic data needs of vulnerable groups and communities in both urban and rural contexts.  

Emphasizing that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach for the digital transformation of land administration, experts highlighted the relevance of experience from the UNECE region to contribute to digitalization process in other regions, including Asia and Africa.  

Ms. Paola Deda, Director of the Forests, Land and Housing Division, stressed that digitalization is a valuable tool to support the acceleration of progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. She underlined that digitalization also could improve the effectiveness and efficiency of land administration systems, making it easier to manage land-related information and processes, while increasing transparency, accountability and collaboration among stakeholders. 

Mr. Fredrik Zetterquist, Chair of the Working Party, considered the digitalization as a disruptor to promote effective land administration. It also enables increased interplay among the different major functions of land administration – cadastre/land tenure, land use planning/urban development and geospatial information management. Such a holistic perspective provides opportunities for strengthened contribution to the SDGs to which land administration is fundamentally linked. At the same time, he warned of multiple risks related to data and cyber security.  

To address the data security concerns in land administration, member States agreed to develop a study on security in land administration, covering critical aspects related to, among others, cyber and data security, protection of personal integrity and national security as part of the Working Party programme of work for 2024-2025. The Working Party will also continue its thematic workshops and other capacity-building and policy advice activities to support member States to improve cyber and data security. 

Note to Editors  

The UNECE Working Party on Land Administration is the only intergovernmental body worldwide with the overall goals of the promotion and improvement of land administration and land management. The Working Party aims at supporting security of tenure, improving and creating more effective land and cadastre registries, a widened usage of geospatial data and promoting sustainable land use policies. It also contributes to achieving the SDGs, especially SDG 1 (No Poverty), 2 (Zero Hunger) and 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities).  

In particular, the Working Party:   

  • Develops methods to strengthen and modernize land administration systems, aligned with global megatrends, new expectations and the shift towards collaborative digital business ecosystems 

  • Contributes to the formulation, implementation and monitoring of land policy and the promotion of holistic and sustainable land administration initiatives 

  • Supports improvements for the acquisition, registration, storage, maintenance and dissemination of information on real property rights as well as value, use and geospatial characteristics of land 

  • Brings together an effective network of land administration officials and facilitates strengthened collaboration among the 56 UNECE member States and the stakeholders, including NGOs, local community representatives, academia and private sector. 

Information on the 13th session of the WPLA is available at  

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