LADM: digitally transforming the land administration ecosystem

LADM: digitally transforming the land administration ecosystem

Progressing land management

The revision of the Land Administration Domain Model (LADM) is significantly changing the scope of the ISO 19152 standard. The focus is shifting from the architectural requirements of the agency, to the architectural requirements of the ecosystem. At the same time, the LADM is recognized as being pivotal to the next phase of digital transformation, where policymakers expect increased operational and process alignment between agencies in the ecosystem. This article summarizes how the LADM can support the digital transformation of the land administration ecosystem.

Land and property are characterized by the interplay of complex rights relationships formalized through different land administration stakeholders. The legitimacy of the rights can be expressed socially and legally. Formal processes generally require legal legitimacy. Land administration is the process of determining, recording and disseminating information about the ownership, value and use of land when implementing land management policies. Land administration reflects the activities of different authoritative agencies that collectively create an ecosystem. This tends to include the following types of land- and property-related functions:

• Land and property titling (land registry) – managing rights registration and the subsequent transaction, and maintenance of the land register
• Development (planning department) – regulating land and property development
• Use and conservation (various departments) – regulating the use and conservation of land
• Finance and valuation – valuing property and framing how revenue is generated from land and property through sales, leasing, and taxation
• Disputes and conflict resolution – land tribunals and other adjudicating agencies to resolve conflicts concerning the ownership and use of land

Collectively these agencies provide the mechanism through which tenure is formalized. In addition, each agency has a mandate and powers to deliver that mandate. This includes holding ‘authoritative data’ – officially recognized data than can be certified and is provided by an authoritative source, and is therefore implied to be up to date, credible, accurate, assured, well-governed and trusted. An efficient and effective land administration ecosystem will use authoritative data as a core reference that can be re-used throughout the ecosystem. This is referred to as the ‘once-only principle’ (UNECE, 2021, p. 11).

Figure 1: Authoritative agencies sharing data and concepts in an integrated ecosystem. The network demonstrates authoritative relationships between party identity systems, company registration, land registration, and power of attorney. In a digital system dynamic data is commonly exposed through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). (Image courtesy: Anthony Beck under a CC-BY licence)

Lack of digital integration

Unfortunately, for the majority of jurisdictions, the products, services and processes of these agencies are not digitally integrated (UNECE, 2021, p. 11). This is generally because the ecosystem has never been re-architected to capitalize on digital systems; rather, agencies have evolved independently. This often results in the duplication of capabilities and inefficient intra-ecosystem processes. In other words, many current land administration ecosystems are represented by agencies operating predominantly within digital silos. This makes for an inefficient digital ecosystem.

The policy expectation is that the capabilities of agencies will evolve and become increasingly integrated (see Figure 1). This requires digital transformation, which is considered to be the key megatrend in the short-medium term (UNECE, 2021, pp. 3-4). So how can the LADM play a role within this context?

Rights duality

The LADM approach to restrictions and responsibilities frames encumbrances in terms of their impact on a land owner rather than the benefit that the right holder has over land owned by someone else. The distinction is subtle but important, reflecting a concept called ‘rights duality’. The implication of rights duality is that a registered right that is legitimately held (and has corresponding tenure security) imposes a duty (either a restriction or responsibility) on the property owner. The duality represents two relationships:

  1. The positive or negative duty owed by the affected land owner
  2. The interest held by a third party

The duality of rights and duties provides a finely nuanced mechanism to define relationships between parties framed through land. In this manner, reserved incidents are rights controlled by authoritative agencies which create duties in the form of restrictions and responsibilities on any affected property. This has important ramifications when considering the whole land administration ecosystem.

Figure 2: The modular arrangement of rights relationships describing conventional incidents (framing the conveyancing process) and reserved incidents (re-used under a CC-BY licence from Anthony Beck).

The paradox in an integrated ecosystem

Rights duality dictates that if a land register records a duty (as a restriction or responsibility), then within the land administration ecosystem there exists a specified third party or authoritative agency which holds the corresponding right. What should be registered: the right (the benefit for the right holder), the duty (the encumbering restriction or responsibility against the property), or both?

This is a difficult question and, in part, the answer depends upon the maturity of the ecosystem and the level of data, service and process integration between authoritative agencies. The once-only principle demands efficient recording. It does not matter whether it is the right or the duty which is recorded. What matters is that other agencies have the ability to infer the respective right or duty from the information which is exposed in the ecosystem. However, where an agency has a mandate, then it manages the right or duty relationship and produces the associated authoritative data. No other agency has the legitimacy to authoritatively manage this specific data.

Unfortunately not all ecosystems are mature and most do not rigorously deploy the once-only principle. While such jurisdictions are being reformed, it is important that rights duality is embraced. The authoritative agency should also record any appropriate ancillary data which is required so that the right or duty can be effectively re-used by other actors in the ecosystem. It is only by understanding the operational requirements of the ecosystem at a holistic level that the once-only principle can be effectively implemented. This is not an easy task.

Figure 3: Conceptual representation of permit creation using Business Process Modelling Notation (BPMN). Note the agency relationships described in the process (re-used under a CC-BY licence from Anthony Beck).

Revision of the LADM to focus on an ecosystem

The revision of the LADM extends the scope of the 2012 standard towards addressing the needs of the broader land administration ecosystem (Lemmen et al., 2023). This revision has the potential to do more than provide semantic interoperability between jurisdictions; it can support the delivery of integrated e-government services. As a standard, the revised LADM should be foundational to the digital transformations required to deliver integrated services.

So how is this to be applied to the land administration domain (which is, after all, a subset of the broader government ecosystem)? Each jurisdiction is unique in the way it determines the social value of rights which are defined in property law. Property law also describes the powers that a right holder has to grant, license, alienate, discharge or vary a right. While the specific details relating to powers depend on the type of tenure, legal tradition and social need expressed in a jurisdiction, the broad nature of powers are generic. In summary, the relationships between parties and rights may be unique to a jurisdiction, while the abstract operations available through powers to change rights are broadly generic across jurisdictions.

Figure 4: Transactions associated with land and property based on LADM concepts: (1) a transfer of party, (2) an alienation of right, and (3) variation of land. (Image courtesy: Anthony Beck under a CC-BY licence)

The role of the LADM in generic operations

To support transparency and interoperability transactional operations should be grounded in the standard LADM primitives. This can be illustrated by alienation, for example, which can occur through a party, right or land dimension (see also Figures 4 and 5, and FAO 2002, p. 10):

  • A Transfer of Party (ToP) transaction: A right to alienate all rights to the entire holding (e.g. through sale). A transfer of all or a proportion of the ownership to specified third-parties. Fragmented shares held by different parties can be consolidated using a ToP operation.
  • A Variation of Land (VoL) transaction: A right to alienate all rights to a portion of the holding (e.g. by subdividing it). A subdivision of a cadastral unit to create two or more cadastral units or the consolidation of multiple cadastral units to create a single cadastral unit.
  • An Alienation of Rights transaction: A right to alienate only a portion of the rights (e.g. through a lease). Rights can be separated from the body of a property (and subsequently transferred to third-parties).
  • A residuary right to the land, i.e. when partially alienated rights lapse (such as when a lease expires), those rights revert to the person who alienated them

At first glance, these operations appear only applicable for land registration. However, the authoritative agency that manages reserved property has powers to alienate rights and transfer them to third parties. This allows these agencies to create permits and other waivers that benefit third parties using these generic operations.

Figure 5: How transactions can change party, rights and land relationships. (Image courtesy: Anthony Beck under a CC-BY licence)


The authors have argued that policy initiatives and the LADM standard are both moving from the architectural requirements of the agency to the architectural requirements of the ecosystem. This represents a significant change in perspective. The challenge is in how to frame and deliver such transformation from the perspective of developing well-defined generic processes grounded in legal, operational and standards-based concepts.

Property law describes both numerous clausus and the powers that a right holder has to grant, license, alienate, discharge or vary a right. While the relationships between parties and rights may be unique to a jurisdiction, the abstract operations available through powers to change rights are broadly generic between jurisdictions. To reflect this, the authors propose that generic transactions in the ecosystem can be framed through core LADM primitives. A transfer is a transaction in the party dimension, a subdivision or consolidation is a transaction in the land dimension, and a rights alienation or amalgamation is a transaction in the rights dimension.

The change in focus from the agency to the ecosystem highlights the importance of rights duality in delivering the once-only principle. While it is clear that the mandated agency should manage authoritative data, in a once-only ecosystem that agency also has the burden of ensuring the once-only data is suitable for re-use scenarios outside its mandated remit. Such understanding requires transparent communication between stakeholders. It is only by understanding the operational requirements of the ecosystem at a holistic level that the once-only principle can be effectively implemented. This requires significant social engineering.

The LADM is pivotal to establishing and supporting these ecosystem-wide principles. The LADM revision should provide clarity in terms of the foundational concepts, implementation patterns and generic business logic. While the LADM was designed to provide interoperability between jurisdictions, the revision should support interoperability between agencies within a functioning ecosystem. This is essential to achieve the digital reforms envisaged by UNECE, FAO and FIG (UNECE, 2021).

What is the Land Administration Domain Model?

The Land Administration Domain Model (LADM) offers a structured approach to understanding land rights by focusing on parties, rights and land parcels. The first edition of the LADM was published in 2012 and focused principally on the needs of the  land registration community. The LADM is currently being revised. Edition II will extend the scope of the 2012 standard towards addressing the needs of the broader land administration ecosystem, so that this framework will continue to provide a comprehensive basis for effective land administration and management by ensuring clarity and efficiency in handling land-related matters.

Kenya is one of the countries where the LADM standard (ISO-19152) was implemented for land administration in recent years.

More information

FAO. (2002). Land tenure and rural development (Issue 3). Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

FAO. (2022). Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security. FAO.

Lemmen, C., Oosterom, P. V. A. N., Kara, A., Kalogianni, E., & Alattas, A. (2023). Overview of Developments of Edition II of the Land Administration Domain Model. FIG e-Working Week 2023.

UNECE. (2021). Scenario Study on Future Land Administration in the UNECE Region. United Nations.

Video presentation: Digital transformation within the land administration ecosystem. FIG C7/C2 Annual Meeting 2023, Deventer, the Netherlands

Video presentation: Digital automation of generic operations within the land registration domain. 11th International FIG Workshop on the Land Administration Domain Model & 3D Land Administration 2023, Gävle, Sweden

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