By Laura Meggiolaro, Land Portal Coordinator
As part of its localization strategy, the Land Portal is taking a collaborative approach to partner with existing networks and transform their land-related information into Linked Open Data. In the Greater Mekong, the Land Portal is working with a range of partners who are committed to the common goal of making information accessible, open, and usable by everyone.
One of these partnerships is East West Management Institute’s Open development Mekong (OD Mekong), which facilitates objective information and crowd-sourced data on social, economic and environmental development trends in the Mekong region, including on land issues. The agreement with the Land Portal materialized a few months ago and is now in the process of being implemented.
As part of its strategy, the Land Portal aims to assist existing information service providers willing to become fully open data compliant to better structure and expose their data by offering capacity building and technical support. Following this pattern, OD Mekong will soon develop its innovative technical infrastructure and will become the first web platform in the region to promote standards, tools and good practices around Linked Open Data (LOD).
Linked Open Data (LOD) is a way of enriching, connecting, and linking data to provide context. Data will need to be published in structured machine readable standardised formats under open licenses. The benefit of LOD is that information becomes sharable, extensible, and easily reusable.
One of OD Mekong’s key partners is the Mekong Region Land Governance (MRLG) Project. The Project is funded by SDC and GIZ, and aims to contribute to the design of appropriate land policies and practices in the Mekong Region, to improve land governance and smallholder’s land tenure security. MRLG is now establishing a platform to help MRLG partners reach and engage with a wider and more diverse group of stakeholders including high-level decision-makers, private sector groups, farmer federations and media. The platform will complement and work closely with OD Mekong. In January 2016, MRLG invited the Land Portal to participate in its mobilization workshop for the M-LIKE (Mekong – Learning, Information, Knowledge Exchange) platform concept and good discussions were held toward joint future collaboration. OD Mekong also participated.
“We were very excited that the Land Portal joined the workshop” said Christian Castellanet, Head of Knowledge Management at MRLG. “We see this MLike platform as an important partnership with a wide range of actors in the region and globally to have an informed discussion and to support the information ecosystem”.
MRLG and OD Mekong are working in a complementary way in Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and Thailand, playing supportive roles that do not duplicate efforts. The Land Portal will benefit from these collaborators with whom it will be able to establish a flow of information and data across sectors and levels (country, regional and global levels) which contributes to the creation of an information ecosystem on land and promotes the reuse of data and information for public benefit.
A fruitful journey to Laos.
I was invited to participate in the above workshop which took place in Vientiane, capital city of Laos in late January.
My time in Laos was really productive. The Land Portal was able to play a synergistic role among different groups it is part of, who all work towards slightly different goals but have one strong common feature: they are all committed towards increasing access to knowledge and information through the use of Open Data standards and tools.
The workshop was dynamic, and engaged representatives from farmer’s organizations, partners of the well-established MRLG platform, and government representatives who all took part in lively discussions towards establishing MLike, the portal that will make available information on best practices and will stimulate dialogue around land issues in the region. It became clear during the workshop that all participants were keen to establish the information ecosystem we were talking about, which hold significant potential for everyone. The Land Portal will follow very closely the development of the platform as a strategic partner and technical advisor.
Following this productive workshop and with the support of MRLG, other bilateral and group discussions took place. Some of these discussions were aimed toward establishing a partnership for an Open Development Laos partner, to join other Cambodian, Vietnamese and Burmese country partners in the OD Mekong network. Other interesting discussions were held with the FAO technical people in Laos and Laos government technocrats working on information management focusing on setting in place a capacity development process on Linked Open Data with the goal of stimulating the release and the reuse of information that can potentially become very useful to all those working on land issues including local governments, researchers and NGO representatives. These meetings generated excitement about the idea of working together toward increasing access to information in the region.
I had a clear impression during the couple of hours that together Mike (M-Like’s designer), Terry (EWMI-OD Mekong), and I spent with the FAO and Laos government that a constructive and exciting atmosphere had been established.
The message around how Linked Open Data might bring positive policy changes to Laotian society was effectively conveyed and immediately agreed upon. Participants, among the youngest and most dynamic people in the government, were excited about LOD concepts and theory.
If data actually becomes more interoperable and reusable, this will enable the building of many interesting applications and visualizations that foster innovation, economic development and a better understanding of land issues by governments, investors, and civil society stakeholders as well.
Data reuse might become an effective entry point to work on enhanced access to information even in more remote contexts.
I am optimistic that in an effort to address complex land-related challenges in the region, the Land Portal will be a valuable partner with EWMI’s Open Development Mekong, the Mekong Region Land Governance programme (MRLG) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to start a fruitful dialogue around data interoperability, standards and more generically enhancing access to information and knowledge on land governance and land for the benefit of all stakeholders in the region.