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Low-tech provides powerful tool to fight land corruption - experts

by Sally Hayden | @sallyhayd | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 23 October 2018 16:05 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO. Senegalese workers gather grass to feed their horses in the shade of baobab trees near Djilakh, August 28, 2008. REUTERS/Ricci Shyrock

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Corruption in land management ranges from officials demanding bribes for basic administrative duties to political decisions being unduly influenced

By Sally Hayden

COPENHAGEN, Oct 23 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Technological solutions to preventing land corruption require resources, but they do not have to be expensive, land rights experts said on Tuesday.

Satellite imagery, cloud computing and blockchain are among technologies with the potential to help many of the world's more than 1 billion people estimated to lack secure property rights.

But they can be expensive and require experts to be trained.

That's were low-tech solutions such as Cadastre Registry Inventory Without Paper (CRISP) can be useful, said Ketakandriana Rafitoson, executive director of global anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) in Madagascar.

CRISP helps local activists in Madagascar, one on of the world's poorest countries, document land ownership using tablets with fingerprint readers and built-in cameras, which cost $20 a day to rent.

Users can take pictures of ID cards, location agreements, photos of landowners, their neighbours and any witnesses who were present during land demarcation, Rafitoson told the International Anti-Corruption Conference.

One challenge in Madagascar is a lack of trust in politicians, Rafitoson said, meaning it is better if local charities are involved too.

"If we just leave the land authorities with the community it doesn't work because they don't trust each other," she said.

Corruption in land management ranges from local officials demanding bribes for basic administrative duties to high-level political decisions being unduly influenced, according to TI.

The Dashboard, a tool developed by The International Land Coalition (ILC), is also putting local people at the centre of monitoring land deals, said Eva Hershaw, a data specialist at the ILC, a global alliance of non-profit organisations working on improving land governance.

The Dashboard is being trialled in Colombia, Nepal and Senegal, where it allows ILC's local partners to collect data based on 30 core indicators, including monitoring legal frameworks and how laws are implemented.

Next week TI Zambia will launch a new phone-based platform, which can advise Zambians on various aspects of land acquisition and guide them through processes around it.

Rueben Lifuka, president of TI Zambia, said users can also report corruption through the platform, including requests for bribes.

Those affected by corruption can decide whether a copy will be sent to the local authorities, and TI can then track the response.

An improvement in internet coverage in Zambia means it is becoming easier to develop technologies such as the platform, which cost about $34,000 to develop, Lifuka said.

(Reporting by Sally Hayden, Editing by Astrid Zweynert. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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