Decent systems of land administration that can record tenure and boundaries support the development of efficient land markets and a sound land-use control system. The social benefits of a land administration system are numerous. They include social inclusion, formality, access to credit, management of land disputes, and poverty alleviation. In addition to the social benefits, a sound land administration system helps the government identify potential land parcels for regeneration. It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible to undertake regeneration projects in cities where more than half the land is outside of the formal land administration system.
Many countries have avoided developing a land cadaster system as it is expensive and requires technically competent staff. However, a newer approach to land administration calls for using methods that are fast, cheap, complete, and reliable. These methods suggest the use of basic large-scale mapping that illustrates land boundaries and parcels. It offers the basis for land administration purposes, including the recording of land tenure, assessing of land values and taxation, identifying and planning land uses, and so on. This system also relies on crowdsourcing and the use of citizen input when necessary. The new approach provides the local governments with the option of upgrading this spatial framework when necessary (FIG and World Bank 2014). There are four basic principles of the new approach to land administration:
- General boundaries rather than fixed boundaries. A "general boundary" of a land parcel could be determined by obtaining satellite imagery. Recording a general boundary is not 100 percent precise, but it is enough for basic land administration purposes, especially in semi-urban areas. If any situation requires determination of fixed boundaries—as in the case of a major development or infrastructure provision—the cost could be paid for by the landowner or other stakeholders.
- Aerial imageries rather than field surveys. High-resolution satellite imagery is usually sufficient for most land administration functions. Boundaries are then identified through a participatory approach, and the community helps in interpreting the imageries. The use of aerial imageries is significantly cheaper than field surveys. Furthermore, it does not require that local government have the capacity and technical expertise to undertake fieldwork. Using field surveys for boundary determination is about five times more expensive than using satellite or orthophoto imagery in urban areas. An additional advantage of this method is that it provides planners with a general topography of land use and buildings.
- Accuracy relates to the purpose rather than to technical standards. Perfect accuracy in recording parcel boundaries and physical objects is not necessary for all land administration functions. If there is a need for greater accuracy for a specific project or a parcel, then the technology could be used to achieve that higher level of accuracy. Usually this type of demand exists in dense urban areas and is a result of high land values or implementation of extensive infrastructure work. In such cases, a higher accuracy could be achieved by conducting field surveys and the cost could be borne by the beneficiaries.
- Opportunities for updating, upgrading and improvement. The spatial framework built using satellite imagery is only a starting point. A base should be updated and upgraded as needs arise. The mapping surveys must be linked to a national grid system and also must be updated often so that any changes to the boundaries are recorded. Any opportunity for incremental improvement of the base should be taken so that a spatial framework in line with a modern and integrated land information system can be gradually established over time (Enemark and others 2014).