Official records

Official records


Lists of organisations, people, or products officially registered, permitted or restricted as a result of legislation.

Key datasets

  • Land registration
  • Licensed organisations (corporations, business, NGOs)
  • Import/export tariffs
  • Permitted crop protection products


Many policies lead to a list of items, people or organisations that are permitted, licensed or registered in different ways. By providing these lists as open data they can be easily consulted – increasing the impact, and lowering administrative costs. (Third party) information services can be built to make these lists easily accessible by the intended user groups. Having this data readily available may also be beneficial for internal collaboration between different government organisations.

Expected impact:

Farmer use

  • By having better access to official documents, such as lists of permitted pesticides and herbicides or the occurrence of diseases, farmers can make more sustainable choices.
  • Clear land ownership registration leads to better stewardship of the land and therefore more sustainable farming practice.
  • Access to curated registries prevents misuse and fraud (for example, open access to the list of registered companies from the Chamber of Commerce to assess the legal status of a trader).

Use other actors.

  • By having better access to official documents, such as lists of permitted or restricted crop protection products, red list species, quarantine diseases, etc., rural advisors can provide better recommendations to the farmer resulting in more sustainable farming.
  • Clear land ownership registration may function as collateral for financial institutes, thereby increasing the access to finance for the farmer.
  • Clear land ownership registration facilitates agricultural monitoring by government, resulting in better policies to improve and sustain agricultural production.
  • Access to curated registries, e.g. Chamber of Commerce, prevents misuse and fraud etc., contributing to government transparency.
  • Open databases of official records facilitate internal collaboration within the government and facilitates the implementation of policies building on these records.

For more information on the use of land registration data, see Box 3.


Most governments have up-to-date official data records. However, these files maybe be on paper or in a digitized form that is not yet a standardized form. In many cases the benefits from making the data readily accessible online may outweigh the cost of making the data available and regularly updating these records.

Examples of implementation

  • This is Denmark’s open data land registration (in Danish); according to the Open Data Index Denmark is one of only two countries in the world providing fully open land registration data.
  • The Californian Department of Pesticide regulation provides lists of all registered pesticide products as open data.
  • Table of limits for nitrogen application per crop and per soil type as specified in the agricultural legislation. Farmers exceeding these limits will be fined (in Dutch).
  • Information on trade tariffs are shared at the WTO site:
    • Initiatives that support interoperability

      • provides standards for land registration.

      Box 3. Importance of land registration data

      There are many benefits of a good land registration system. The government of Rwanda notes that formal identification and recognition of land ownership and boundaries of individual or community land may lead to:

      1. More sustainable farming: farmers will have an incentive to take greater care of the land and to invest their capital and resources in it, leading to sustainable farming.
      2. Reduction in land disputes: leading to greater social cohesion and fewer disputes in court.
      3. Stimulation of the land market: the introduction of a cheap, secure and effective system for recording and transferring interests in land improves the operation and efficiency of the land market.
      4. Access to finance: the land title can be used as security against any loan. To raise long-term credit can give rise to substantial increases in productivity from the land.
      5. Facilitation of land reform: land redistribution and land consolidation can be expedited through the ready availability of information on who currently owns which rights in what land.
      6. Facilitation of land management: the development of a cadastral system and, in particular, the creation of cadastral maps in a systematic manner will benefit the state in the administration of its own land, often giving rise to improved revenue collection from land that it leases. In addition, knowing the identity of landowners will facilitate land transaction, taxation and the public acquisition of land through compulsory purchase prior to redevelopment.
      7. Improvements in physical planning: the cadastral system may be used to support physical planning in both the urban and rural sectors. Better land administration should lead to greater efficiency in local government. Many development programmes have failed or been unnecessarily expensive through a lack of knowledge of existing land rights.
      8. Supporting environmental management: cadastral records, in their multipurpose form, can be used as a tool in assessing the impact of development, in helping in the preparation of environmental impact assessments and in monitoring environmental change.
      9. indicates that providing this information as open data means the list of benefits would grow, reinforcing the indicated benefits above:

      10. Increasing the informal use, reduce the administrative burden: in many countries land registration data is accessible for internal use only or will only be provided on request while paying a fee. When the data is freely available, it becomes possible to achieve benefits of disputes reduction, stimulation of the land market, access to finance and land reform, while still reducing administrative costs.
      11. Fighting corruption: 1 in 5 people across the globe have paid a bribe for a land service. Open data enhances transparency, exposing petty corruption, bringing to light the concentration of property held among elites, and revealing investments that may conflict with the individual or community tenure holders.
      12. Data verification, increasing tax incomes: land registration data is not up to date in all countries. Sharing the data enables the different stakeholders to provide feedback and to update the data. Land ownership is a basis for taxation in many countries, and up to date ownership records smoothes the taxation process.
      13. Empowering communities: in some places informal property rights claims are just as important as formally recognized property rights. By opening the formal land registration data, conflicts can be identified and formal registers can start incorporating informal property rights claims.

      In 2016 only two countries, Denmark and Uruguay, provide land registration records as fully open data. The reasons for not opening these datasets elsewhere vary:

      • data may not be up to date,
      • land registration is regulated at sub national level, making standardization challenging,
      • selling the data may be an underlying business model for maintaining the data.

      Land registration often contains elements that are considered to be sensitive data and should be protected. Issues such as privacy and informal property rights should be taken into consideration. Titles and deeds contain PII (personally identifiable information), such as names, addresses and national identification numbers, whose widespread release can pose a tangible threat to individuals and communities. On the other hand, this information is often already shared with paying customers, creating an inequality between those who can pay and those who cannot. The Cadasta Foundation provides some clear recommendations on how to approach these issues and on the standardization of land registration data records.