FAO Publications

FLOSS in Cadastre and Land Registration. Opportunities and Risks

When it comes to computer software, the old saying “you get what you pay for” may no longer apply. After years of skepticism towards open-source software, many of today’s open-source solutions are as good, if not better than proprietary software solutions. The question is – why is it then that there are so few land administration systems making use of open-source software technology? Lack of knowledge about the possibilities might be one of the reasons. After all, marketing has never been a priority for developers of open-source software. Doubts about the security and available software support could further shy away cadastre agencies from making the switch.

Land administration and cadastral systems are playing a crucial macro-economic role in the collection, management, and dissemination of information about land ownership, use and value. Cadastral systems are documenting land tenure rights and are thus providing crucial economic, social and environmental benefits. Modern cadastral systems make extensive use of information technology (IT) supported by software systems. In developed countries, such systems have been established over the last 20-30 years and became powerful tools in operating cadastral systems. In developing and transitional countries, the need for efficient cadastral systems and the use of IT is as much a necessity as it is in developed countries, although there are substantial financial and operational constraints.

The motivation for FAO, World Bank and FIG to become active in the field of open-source software for cadastre and land registration comes from the observation that many systems and projects in developing countries struggle to provide appropriate and affordable services for tenure security. Reasons are related to governance but also to technological and financial shortcomings. Information technology plays a crucial role in operating cadastres and land registration systems. In developing countries, the on-going license costs of proprietary software often created serious constraints and have even stopped programmes.

The costs of proprietary software licenses have proved to be a constraint, but even more, the lack of capacity, models and support to develop software have stopped initiatives. Open-source software, which has become a credible alternative to proprietary software, provides a way forward. Open-source solutions are more flexible and adaptable to local conditions and languages than proprietary software. By using and improving open-source software, cadastres can build local knowledge and contribute to the development of open-source projects that can in turn benefit other cadastres world-wide.

Aim of publication

The aim of this publication is to explore open-source software in general and in particular in the fields of cadastre and land registration and to come up with recommendations and hints for countries that are thinking of using open-source products. Open-source software has become an issue that cannot be ignored any longer and that actually might provide solutions to existing problems. This publication wants to explore and to develop an understanding of open-source software in as much a balanced and unbiased way as possible, give recommendations and reflect on lessons learnt with long-term validity on a conceptual and strategic level.

Available on the web: www.fig.net/resources/publications/fao/floss/floss_cadastre.pdf