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News & Events "La necesidad de verificar la información es esencial", aconseja un antiguo miembro del consejo al Land Portal.
"La necesidad de verificar la información es esencial", aconseja un antiguo miembro del consejo al Land Portal.
"The need to verify information is essential" advises former board member to the Land Portal
Chris Addison


Chris Addison is a senior digitalisation specialist who has worked on digitalisation for the agriculture industry for over 20 years across Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and the Pacific. He served as a member of the Land Portal board from 2020 to 2023. His work can be found here

Congratulations to the Land Portal on their 15th Anniversary. I am so pleased to see the platform go from strength to strength, particularly having seen it rise to the challenge of Covid and keep debate on land issues alive during that time. The incredible skill of the team has been to adjust to the needs of the user community and partners for a focus on land issues. I would like to congratulate the Land Portal director and team, not only for the content that they manage but for the process they use in delivering the services. It is one thing to publish and synthesise information but quite another to maintain an independent platform in the face of emerging new technologies and changing resources. The engine running the Land Portal requires constant development to remain secure, efficient, relevant and cost effective. I know a little of what is involved from the technical platforms I have been involved in running myself. 


Working with the Land Portal

I was working at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) when I first heard about the Land Portal and their work bringing together various sources of information on land issues with partners, such as IFPRI, using open data. There was an international surge of interest in open data as a way to bring the semantic web to the internet and provide a way of free exchange of information in a more structured form using standard vocabularies and avoiding duplication of effort. When I then joined CTA, this interest in open data led me to work with the Land Portal in the GODAN action and Data4Ag projects where over 6,000 people were trained in Massive Open Online Courses on data management delivered by FAO. The Land Portal has played a crucial role in the international cooperation community using open data, being a champion and, most importantly, an implementor. I invited them to speak in a number of our CTA events in Brussels and online where the talks were well viewed and appreciated.

Serving on the board during a particularly active period of opening up data

I applied for a board position in 2020 hoping that my experience with managing international portals would be useful to the Land Portal team. When selected I was able to use some of the experience from my previous work on portals from Euforic – an early portal for Europe’s community working on development issues, work as director of Oneworld Europe, part of the Oneworld development portal, and data portal work with IFPRI. I have been very impressed with the way the group has built up its monitoring and evaluation to better demonstrate value. How it has ensured sustainability by adjusting to the needs of the community. All of this has been possible through the strong leadership of Laura and having such a formidable team.

The period in which I was a member of the board was active for the Land Portal in terms of opening up data and consolidating its position as a thought leader. A substantially new version of the Open Up Guide for Land Governance was released aimed at governments to collect and release land-based data. It covered the key datasets needed, data policies and showed existing gaps in work done to date. Supporting this approach, it is great to see that since its launch in 2021, the State of land information SOLI reports now cover sixteen countries and provides not only an overview of publicly available information and data but also identify gaps and ways to fill them. It was also good to see data stories introduced to the site, linking the content and data by illustrating concepts together with graphics of the underlying data.

On the board I realised that what we see online in the portal and in the online discussions is really just the small part of the iceberg visible above the water. It has been fascinating and impressive to see what lies beneath in the depth of thinking with documented strategy policy and organisational infrastructure. My experience with the board made me appreciate the current challenges to run an independent foundation to support such an international platform, it reminded me of my time running Oneworld Europe. I saw a period of great change as COVID brought a need to move to shorter contracts supporting hosting online discussions, but at the same time this strengthened partnerships. The time was also used to demonstrate the impacts of the portal more effectively to potential supporters. It was exhilarating to see the effects as new donors came in.

What next?

The next few years will see challenges to how content is delivered and discussed online. As false information is more easily generated, the need to verify is essential. The Land Portal’s role in synthesising and accrediting information and providing supporting data and references will continue to put it above other sources. The politicisation of content, and the need to hear from all stakeholders, not just those able to publish online at scale, will be key and the Land Portal has the trust to provide a focal point. The distribution of the platform in terms of those posting and producing content has already spread, but in the next fifteen years there are more possibilities for content contribution around the world. It will be important to keep the community to guarantee quality, building on the scale achieved with 8,000 stakeholders a year in 2023 in discussions online and 100 peer reviewers for country profiles to date.

Technology will shift considerably and there will be tough balances to strike between content on the platforms of others and data on closely controlled systems. This reflects the Land Portal’s need to communicate easily with all stakeholders but to have a robust data platform for the core data and metadata that it manages. 

I am pleased to have worked with the Land Portal and look forward to its continued development.