WASHINGTON, March 20 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) -
C utting-edge technologies – from drones to data collected by
taxi drivers - are becoming key weapons in the global battle to
improve land rights and fight poverty, experts said on Monday.
Advances in earth observation, digital connectivity
and computing power provide an array of information, from
detailed topographical maps to transportation use, that was
previously unimaginable, geospatial experts said at a World Bank
Conference on Land and Poverty.
The information collected can be instrumental to helping
establish property records and land titling systems in countries
where there is no formal ownership or land-use documentation.
Survey-mapping drones may look like toys but are powerful
machines having a huge impact on land-use planning in Africa,
said Edward Anderson, a senior World Bank disaster management
High-quality, high-resolution images taken by drones in
Zanzibar identified nearly 2,000 new buildings in one 12-month
period alone, he said.
The mapping exercise, budgeted at $2 million in 2005, was
completed at a tenth of the price by local university students
operating the small, light, unmanned drones, he said.
"Coastal zones are developing and urbanizing so quickly,
waterside areas are being developed into hotels, residential
properties," he said.
"Until now, there was no way of quantifying this change and
making comparisons," he said.
While more than 87 percent of the land mass of Europe is
mapped at a local level, such maps exist for only about 3
percent of the entire African continent, he said.
A project using drones in Mauritania, a country twice the
size of France but with a population of less than four million,
has allowed authorities to document the massive growth of cities
such as its capital, Nouakchott, said University of Arizona
professor Mamadou Baro.
Originally established in 1959 with fewer than 5,000
residents, Nouakchott is the largest city in the Sahara and home
to more than 1.5 million people.
"This is placing huge pressure on social infrastructure and
chaos in the development of the city," Baro said. "Drones are
very helpful in attempting to manage and track this kind of
Private companies that collect data as part of their
businesses are being encouraged to share with state planning
authorities as well, said Holly Krambeck, a World Bank transport
GPS data collected by taxi drivers is helping to design
plans for infrastructure and roads in countries such as Brazil
and in North Africa, she said.
The shared data comes through agreements with technology
companies such as Grab that operates ride-hailing and logistics
services apps in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines,
Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.
Using technology can also help identify new sources of tax
revenue, experts said.
In Tanzania, improved mapping data revealed that up to
two-thirds of properties in secondary cities were not on the tax
rolls, they said.
(Reporting by Paola Totaro, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst )