Uncovering Land Data Opportunities in Senegal
The Land Portal Foundation and Open Data Charter have been working with the Government of Senegal to open up land data, following the guidance set forth in the Open Up Guide for Land Governance. The Open Up Guide is a practical guide for governments who are seeking to better collect, publish, and use land data for the public good. As Phase 1 of this project, the team has published the State of Land Information in Senegal (SOLI) Report. SOLI reports are research-driven analyses of the current state of land data that assess the available land information against open data standards.
Along with GIZ and the National Agency for Spatial Planning, known as ANAT, in Senegal, we co-hosted a webinar, “Uncovering Land Data Opportunities in Senegal,” on 31 January 2023. The panel brought together open data and land governance experts to discuss the state of land information in Senegal – focusing on the findings from the SONI Senegal Report – and the way forward to a more inclusive, open and transparent land data ecosystem in Senegal.
Mr. Mamadou Djigo, Director General of ANAT, provided introductory remarks in which he identified strong action items to promote the production, updating, and sharing of territorial information, particularly land information.
Recommendations from Mamadou Djigo:
Production of updated geographic reference data that meets the needs of development actors and promotes the implementation of geographic information systems.
Strengthening and decentralising the national statistical system
Establishing an appropriate legal framework for pooling, sharing and using territorial information
Regulation and standardisation of toponymy
Establishment of a uniform addressing system at the national level
Establishment of the National Territorial Observatory (ONT)
Information is at the beginning (diagnosis and development of strategies) and at the end (evaluation/consolidation/learning) of territorial action and largely determines its chances of success and results. – Mr. Mamadou Djigo, Director General of the Senegal National Agency for Spatial Planning (ANAT).
Mr. Charl-Thom Bayer, the open data lead at the Land Portal, next provided an overview of the implementation of the Open Up Guide for Land Governance in Senegal. Beginning with the finding that “Overall land data in Senegal is only slightly open,” he went on to summarize:
There is awareness about open data and a demand for open land data in Senegal.
Despite this interest, there are some gaps for operationalising open data and improving open data management (data sharing agreements, standards, streamlining practices).
Progress is being made in terms of pushing data onto online platforms, and making the data publicly available, but this is not the same as open data. The data lacks the legal and technical characteristics to be truly open.
While there are capacity gaps with regards to opening up land data, we can see that there is significant capacity in opening up other data that is not land related.
Ms. Oumou Kalsom Khoule Seck, director of spatial planning at ANAT, announced that, “as far as spatial planning and cartographic information is concerned, ANAT's policy is to open up the data it produces.” Her colleague Mr. Abdou Karim Mbengue added, “ANAT has adopted a policy of opening up all the data produced in the framework of the development of the land use plan and scheme as well as the basic geographical data.”
He went on to note some shortcomings in implementing the policy:
Poor control and sharing of geographical information (including land information), as not all state structures that produce geographical information have adopted this policy of opening up data;
The absence of a territorial information system, especially on actors and their interventions; and
The absence of a system for monitoring and evaluating territorial action.
Ms. Natalia Carfi, executive director of Open Data Charter, addressed the importance of measuring openness and how stakeholders should interpret the findings of the SOLI Senegal report. Understanding the state of where a government is as far as data openness is an important criteria to be able to develop an open data policy. “When performing open data assessments worldwide we have found in most of the cases there is a lot more digitized data than expected. We have also found that those datasets are not open.” Having a “picture” to share among different governmental offices and external data reusers is important to kick-start a conversation around data publication priorities because there is a lot of work to be done in order to open data and we recognize that it is important to start with the most demanded data.
You can´t change what you don´t know. Having land data can help make informed decisions to change the reality into a more equal one. – Natalia Carfi, Open Data Charter
Dr. Labaly Toure, co-author of the SOLI Senegal report, pinpointed that the problem is not in the production of data but rather the operational aspects. Land data exists but the level of sharing is very weak and this means researchers and civil society struggle to contribute.
We are not capitalizing on what has been done. Everyone uses their own data and keeps it a secret, forgetting that sharing is enriching ourselves. Sharing is helping to make decisions. Sharing is giving the other the opportunity to create something that you are not able to create. So this is about communication, about sharing. But in order to create data, we need information. So we need to help our states to create reliable data. Research today comes from civil society, the private sector and the state together. We all need to continue spreading awareness and showing the relevance of open data. -- Labarly Toure, co-author of the SOLI Senegal Report
When it comes to users of open land data, Ms. Seck identified “decision-makers, and the State's technical services” as the first users, as good control and governance of these data allows for good economic, social and territorial planning. She also added that local authorities are also interested in this data, which allows them to ensure land and territorial governance. Finally, “the private sector, civil society, researchers and universities are all actors who benefit from the opening of land and territorial data.”
Mr. Bayer finished by naming concrete recommendations around leveraging existing open data capacity, spatial data, metadata, and policy reforms as some of the ways to make progress.