Digital transformation and land administration – Sustainable practices from the UNECE region and beyond




This publication as a .pdf-file (98 pages - 6.3Mb)
The publication is also available at:


It is our pleasure to introduce this new publication. It is a collaborative work between the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), and the International Federation of Surveyors (FIG).

The idea for the publication commenced from the recognition that the COVID-19 pandemic impacted significantly on the land administration sector in many country contexts. There were stories of success and stress in the face of the severe social disruption. One of the key realisations was that land administration systems coped and often thrived during lockdowns, and this was largely thanks to digital transformation. In many countries, the digitalization of land administration services was accelerated. The event saw increased demand to fundamental spatial and other information on tenure rights for governments and citizens. It also demonstrated the importance of ensuring no one is left behind, particularly women and vulnerable groups, when it comes to access to digital land administration services.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the FAO, UNECE and FIG fostered dialogue between countries using webinars to capture experiences and the key lessons. That knowledge forms the basis for what is presented here. The publication delivers country- level perspectives using case materials drawn mainly from the UNECE region. It also takes a broader view of the contemporary land administration domain. It reveals the digitally disrupted era that all land administration systems must now operate in. It shows the benefits of accelerating digital transformation, but also the challenges. It unpacks the key elements for future land administration systems and reveals the pathways for taking action, sourcing financing including public investment, and achieving implementation.

We hope land administrators can apply the lessons and knowledge within and use the document to advocate for land administration advancement within their home country contexts.

Our special thanks to Rumyana Tonchovska (FAO) who was the main initiator of this publication, Frederick Zetterquist, Chair, UNECE Working Party on Land Administration (WPLA) and Hana Daoudi (UNECE) as well as Hartmut Müller and Louise Friis-Hansen (FIG). The drafting team with the three experts Rohan Bennett (in the lead), Claudia Stöcker and Kwabena Asiama who did a remarkable job. Furthermore, we would like to thank all those country level representatives who delivered content, and the dozens of reviewers and proof readers.

Mohamed Manssouri
FAO Investment Centre

Rudolf Staiger
FIG President

Paola Deda
Director, Forests, Land and Housing Division

Executive Summary

Starting from the digital disruptions triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, this publication examines the state-of-play and future directions for digital transformation in land administration in the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) region and beyond.

At the onset of the pandemic, many land administration organizations were already well equipped for the new normal, adapting to working at-distance, handling service spikes, responding swiftly to changing customer needs, and delivering novel data analytics services. Legal arrangements to support digital service delivery were often already in place or adaptable at short notice. The event even produced financial gains for many land administration organizations. Nevertheless, it also placed a spotlight on issues of digital exclusion, data quality, standards, staff capacity, customer awareness, and partner collaboration. These are areas where investment is most urgently needed.

Digital disruption is the new normal for land administration organizations. Successful systems already operate with this mindset and can pivot, adapt, and learn on-the-fly – be it through leveraging off information technology (IT) infrastructure investments, fast-tracking e-conveyancing, becoming more data-driven, fostering dynamic capabilities, or supporting innovation incubation hubs. Land administration and National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) organizations should recognize digital disruption as an opportunity to improve services and data quality, find new customers, and create new services. To be equipped, digital transformation agendas for land administration must align with broader governmental digital agendas, infrastructure developments, and cybersecurity plans. Investment plans should equally direct resources towards partnership building, capacity and skills development, communication, and awareness-raising, to ensure they deliver societal benefits and bridge the digital divide.

The COVID-19 pandemic evidenced the indispensable role that spatial and other information on tenure rights play in supporting the government to deliver on broader policy goals. They can help integrate cross-government business processes, improve data supply lines, and support streamlining of e-services for health management, emergency response, property market stimulus, economic recovery, poverty reduction, protection of women and vulnerable groups, climate change response, food security and agricultural enhancement, disaster and conflict management, infrastructure provision, government interconnectedness, open data initiatives, citizen and business activation, and coordinated cybersecurity responses.

The land sector is accelerating towards fully digital operating environments. They are establishing ‘dynamic capabilities’ to sense digital opportunities, seize them and continuously transform business processes. Capacity development programs are needed to further enhance these capabilities. Authoritative, available, accurate, accessible, and unambiguous digital datasets of land parcels, buildings, rights, restrictions, responsibilities, and people must also be in place. Land administration organizations are often responsible for the quality of 11 of the 14 datasets identified as critical for effective Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) response. Land administration and NSDI leaders can adopt an ecosystem mindset, assisting in the creation of inter-agency goodwill, goals, sharing, and custodianship.

Future land administration systems must be ready to respond to a diverse number of post-pandemic policy priorities including severe demographic shifts, increasing ­societal disparities, economic volatility, newly emerging business ecosystems, anthropogenic environmental damage, decentralized operating environments, political power shifts, and rapid urbanization. Equally, technological developments in cybersecurity, data privacy and ethics, open data, artificial intelligence, robotics, digital collaboration, innovation incubators, and crowdsourced data demand attention. Platforms for partnerships with the business and education sectors, as part of broader capacity development and community awareness-raising, need consideration, alongside actions that better support vulnerable groups, local communities, and deliver upon their basic data needs.

Future land administration systems will require more intelligence, interoperability, inclusivity, interactivity, incorporation, and investment. They may need to explore ‘As-a-Service’, ‘Platform’ and ‘Distributed’ operational models, especially if these can enhance transparency, accountability, reliability, ease of use, collaboration, cooperation, and leadership. Redesigns must be fit-for-purpose and improve land-related decision making, land tenure security, property valuation/taxation, land use planning, land development, and land dispute minimization.

To implement these visions, a holistic approach towards digital transformation is needed. It should incorporate key land administration stakeholders and link to broader government policy goals. It should include baseline assessments, policy alignment, benefits analysis, impact assessment, an action plan, and an investment plan. These should consider the nine strategic pathways from the United Nations Expert Group on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) Integrated Geospatial Information Framework (IGIF) and the Framework for Effective Land Administration (FELA) and specific gaps and opportunities relating to those. Costing of actions, sourcing of finance, and return on investment checks are needed. Sustainable business models should consider fees and value-added services. Performance monitoring and evaluation, utilizing data analytics and dashboards, linked to the SDGs achievement, is essential.

Lessons from the UNECE region can transcend globally, provided contextual factors are responsibly assessed. Supportive legislative environments, coupled with economic stimulus and earlier investments into digital infrastructure, saw land administration continue uninterrupted in many non-UNECE contexts. In many cases, service delivery reached unprecedented levels during the pandemic. In less digitally transformed contexts, halts in face-to-face service provision resulted in request backlogs. Those in rural contexts and the digitally disenfranchised, often women or vulnerable groups, tended to fare worse. Technology can be a leveller, but also a divider: equality to service access and skills development remains a key priority.

Looking ahead, land administration organizations can build from the momentum of the recent COVID-19 pandemic success stories. They must re-evaluate current action and investment plans for digital transformation and further opportunities for acceleration. Short-term actions should ensure requisite cross-sector committees are in place, sector-wide adoption of the disruption paradigm, and global and regional engagement, potentially with donors. Medium-term actions should seek plan adoption, investment funding and implementation. Monitoring of risks, benefits and performance measures will be necessary. Embedding of dynamic capabilities needs to be supported. Where responsible to do so, full digital transformation is now achievable.


1 Introduction

2 Embracing digital disruption – Ensuring and improving

3 Understanding accelerated digitization – Leveraging land information from land administration

4 Advancing dDigital transformation – Strategies for sustainable digitalization in land administration

5 Implementing and benefiting – Action and investment plans for land administration

6 Impacting Globally – Lessons and outreach for the international land administration sector

7 Conclusions and way forward

Drafting team:
Rohan Bennett
Claudia Stöcker
Kwabena Asiama

Read the full FIG Publication 80 in pdf

The publication is also available at:

FIG Guide and FAO Investment Brief

Read more about the two publications that were published, FIG Guide and FAO Investment Brief:

FAO, UNECE and FIG. 2022. Digital transformation and land administration – Sustainable practices from the UNECE region and beyond. FIG Publication, No. 80. Rome, FAO and UNECE.

All rights reserved.

International Federation of Surveyors (FIG)
Kalvebod Brygge 31–33
DK-1780 Copenhagen V
Tel. + 45 38 86 10 81

ISBN [FAO] 978-92-5-136837-4 (pdf)
ISSN 2311-8423 (pdf)

© FAO and UN, 2022

Layout: Lagarto


Digital transformation and land administration – Sustainable practices from the UNECE region and beyond
Published in English
Published by FAO and UNECE, November 2022
ISSN 2311-8423 (pdf)
ISBN [FAO] 978-92-5-136837-4 (pdf)