Unlocking the Land Data Ecosystem in South Africa | Land Portal

New Report delves into the State of Land Information (SOLI) in South Africa

Land governance in South Africa is a significant and complex political issue. The land information landscape reflects diversity of actors involved and extends from sophisticated statistical datasets and satellite imagery to local arguments for restitution based on oral records. 

This State of Land Information in South Africa report provides an overview of existing data and information on key land issues. Its aim is to uncover the great diversity of land data and information sources in South Africa. The report was produced using an original scoping and assessment methodology that builds on recognized international frameworks. 

The report is based on a collaboration between the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa and the Land Portal Foundation. It is based on a wide-ranging survey of sources of land information in South Africa, conducted by the CSIR.

The report systematically reviews and categorizes the entire landscape of data and information related to key land topics in South Africa, assessing over 104 land resources from 59 different sources while providing a high-level overview of land data availability and accessibility. This robust scoping exercise demonstrates not only trends and gaps in land data collection, but led to very practical recommendations to improve visibility and usability of data and information, thus seeking to improve the land information ecosystem in the country.

Key findings of the report:

  • 67% of key land resources are available as statistical or geospatial data, not documents.

  • The government of South Africa is the main provider of data (over 60%). 

  • Datasets managed by Civil Society Organisations account for only 8% of the total resources identified, demonstrating that the State is the dominant player in this ecosystem and possibly suggesting that CSOs may need to invest more in making their data and information accessible to a wider audience. 

  • While 75% of the land-related knowledge published online in South Africa is available for free, 40% of the resources identified have some kind of login barrier.


Why is this report useful?

The report is useful as a tool for any land governance work that requires access to data and information. For example, a researcher may use this report to identify gaps in information and identify research priorities accordingly. A land practitioner working at the global level may use the information sources as a basis to monitor land governance performance against international indicators. Private companies may find the report a useful starting point in due diligence processes prior to working or investing in a country. Local information providers may identify weak links in their data sharing practices and implement concrete recommendations. Governments can use the outcome to establish or strengthen their policies that aim to increase access to data and information by citizens. Ultimately, we hope the report will make data and information more visible and usable by any potential user and thus improve the local information ecosystem from the bottom-up.

The report includes a range of recommendations for (a) improving the land information ecosystem in South Africa, such as facilitating equitable access to data by removing or simplifying login requirements and payment barriers, (b) supporting and enforcing the use of standards when publishing data and metadata, (c) applying open licenses to published data and information, and (d) commissioning specific research and action into availability of data and information originated by Civil Society Organisations to gain a better understanding in their data and information sharing practices, among others. 

Join the South Africa's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Land Portal Foundation this Thursday, October 1st for a webinar discussing this report and the State of Land Information in South Africa.

This is the fifth State of Land Information report produced by the Land Portal, which seeks to provide an overview of publicly available data and information on key land issues from government and other stakeholders in targeted countries. The aim of these reports is to uncover land data and information at the country level and help to identify data and information gaps, with a view to establishing a baseline for targeted ‘information-based’ interventions for improving land governance. Previous reports have been published on Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.


Download the report.

Related content: 
The State of Land Information in South Africa
1 October 2020
Southern Africa
South Africa
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
Land Portal Foundation


Library Resource

Uncovering South Africa's land information ecosystem

Reports & Research
September, 2020
South Africa

The report is based on a collaboration between the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa and the Land Portal Foundation, in collaboration with local partners, in individual countries. It is based on a wide-ranging survey of sources of land information in South Africa, conducted by the CSIR, ‘Sources of Land Information in South Africa and their Institutional Context’, published as a companion document.

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