Skip to content



The land thematic module has been co-developed with the Land Portal research team to understand the state of data on land around the world and to contribute to overall Global Data Barometer assessments of data for the public good.

There are a wide range of sub-themes and datasets that might be covered by the topic of land data, and land issues are often highly interconnected, with consequences for many different fields including socioeconomic development, environmental protection, and anti-corruption efforts. In order to manage the scope of this Barometer module, we focus specifically on land tenure and on land use, as well on uses of land data to support work on gender and inclusion.

This focus supports continuity with past Open Data Barometer measures on land registers, extends analysis into an area (land use) where it is reasonable to expect some degree of data availability, and positions the land module in relation to a number of other modules in the Barometer (notably climate action and the various modules that speak to corruption).

Our selection of specific datasets and our prioritization of within those datasets is designed to capture different aspects of data availability and use, including issues of personal and non-personal information, the application of data to address anti-corruption and environmental challenges, and the distinction between country-level coverage and local data.

Prospective Indicators

Land Data and the Public Good

The way in which societies interact with land has broad impacts, from shaping social and economic development to supporting cultural and religious life. The eradication of hunger and poverty and the sustainable use of the environment depend in large measure on how people, communities, and others gain access to land and other related assets (FAO 2012). This is why data related to land, when it is well governed, available to key actors, and usable by those stakeholders, can be a resource to help secure a broad spectrum of public good. Land data has also been widely discussed as an anti-corruption tool (Davies & Mey 2019; Jaitner et al. 2020). At the same time, a lack of effective access to land data, particularly for marginalised groups, can work against the public interest (Gurstein 2011), highlighting the importance not only of data availability, but of the need for widely distributed capabilities to make use of it.

Good land governance is central to achieving a number of the sustainable development goals, including SDG 1: No poverty; SDG 2: Zero hunger; SDG 5: Gender equality; SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities; and SDG 15: Life on land (Land Portal 2020). Monitoring and reporting on progress toward these goals requires both statistical and operational data. Governments, civil society, and private sector entities have also widely recognized and adopted the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Content of Food Security (FAO 2012), which will depend on the availability of data.

Use Cases Shaping This Module

Land policies shape the future of a country in many different ways: more so in their influence on issues of access and rights to food, water, and other natural resources, responses to climate change and access to economic opportunities. An indicator from the Open Data Barometer on ‘land ownership data’, focusing primarily on central land registers and cadastres (Web Foundation 2017), has been widely cited in discussions of open land data availability, despite having relatively low sensitivity to the full range of ways in which land data may be made available and used. Therefore, there is a strong case to produce a more nuanced set of measures of land data availability to support future research and advocacy by a range of stakeholders.

These stakeholders, including the Land Portal that will be able to use the output from this module to construct a high-level overview of land data availability and accessibility, supporting advances in the debate over land data. There are also opportunities to align this module with a forthcoming Open Up Guide on Land under development by the Land Portal and Open Data Charter. Land indicators gathered by the GDB will complement parallel data collection efforts, including the LANDex Global Land Government Index.

The data this module gathers may also support policy-makers to strengthen data digitization, ensure strategic decisions are taken on data evidence, identify data gaps and ways to solve them, and set out local goals for improved data management. Moreover, the data has the potential to help international donor organizations or private companies decide which countries to invest in and to gain a better understanding of what kind of data they might find when they engage in grassroots work. The module also seeks to empower civil society to understand how countries treat land data and to identify the types of data they need to address tenure conflicts, informal settlements, and environmental issues.

Global Relevance

Land is a resource of high relevance everywhere; however, there are a number of particularities that need to be taken into account in indicator design to avoid creating a bias toward distinct systems of land ownership or institutional configurations of land governance. First, countries have different models of land tenure, in some cases with overlapping tenure systems. Second, in some countries, traditional, customary, and indigenous land rights can be of particular significance, as can local language accessibility of information and data to allow communities to secure their rights. Third, the political nature of land can affect the level of transparency of detailed land ownership information in some countries. Fourth, country-specific administrative structures can lead to significant institutional fragmentation of oversight for land issues, meaning that data on both land tenure and land use may be scattered across many institutions or levels of government.

Module Development Notes

A background paper for this module is available.