Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
317R: The role of digitalization in land transformation
Thursday, 25/Apr/2019:
1:30pm - 3:00pm

Session Chair: Adrienne Grêt-Regamey
Session Chair: Peter Messerli
Session Chair: Julie Gwendolin Zaehringer
Location: MB-120
Main Building, room 120, first floor, west wing, 80 (+14) seats
Session Topics:
How do we support transformation?

Session Abstract

Digitalization has been promoted as a sustainability game changer, both as a driver of changing lifestyles and land resource use and a means to open possibilities for transformation towards sustainability goals. Although new Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Artificial Intelligence have altered the way humans interact with their natural environment, e.g. by changing mobility or people’s access to goods and services, digitalization has not been considered a driving factor in studies and models of land-use change and social-ecological systems. However, digital transformation has been shown to generate essential feedback for adaptive resource management in individual case studies, e.g. through the mobilization of citizens, visualization and communication of historical management shortfalls or digital governance. While theoretical discourse about the enormous opportunities and pitfalls of digitalization and big data in promoting sustainability has been launched, the potential to bridge disciplines and foster collaborative large-scale research still needs to be harnessed. In this session, we tackle how land resource management can use this technology to achieve sustainability. We investigate (1) how new digital social networks play a role in triggering and modifying these land-use changes, (2) how the new technology will allow science, engineering and design to generate effective feedback loops of sensing, processing, and learning/adaptive responses – thus creating new development opportunities and innovative linkages between disconnected social networks across sectors and administrative borders, and (3) how digital technologies will influence multi-scale land governance? Session Organizers: Adrienne Grêt-Regamey, Julie Zaehringer, and Peter Messerli.

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Full talk
ID: 849 / 317R: 1
216R Equity and justice in telecoupled land systems: evaluative and transformative perspectives
Keywords: land tenure, rights, blockchain

The role of blockchain technology for land use rights

Desiree Christina Daniel1, Chinwe Ifejika Speranza2

1University of Bern, Switzerland; 2University of Bern, Switzerland

The relationship between people and land is at the heart of livelihoods. Yet, land tenure in the global south reveals complex issues regarding land administration and security of land rights for the poor, marginalised and indigenous communities. For livelihoods, access to land is at times the basis for access to other resources, and documentary proof of rights to land is necessary. For example, the burgeoning informal land market and creeping informalisation of tenure means that users are granted permission verbally, and those permissions are not formally documented.

In this presentation, we discuss the potential of Blockchain Technology in addressing the documentation of users’ rights on lands. To address this issue on already overburdened land administration resources, we explore the feasibility of this new technology. Blockchain technology is a peer-to-peer protocol that can be leveraged to keep track of transactions over the internet. Publicised for its use in the bitcoin revolution, the technology provides transparency and traceability that can be used in the management of land rights. When it comes to the formalisation of land rights, blockchain technology promises to authenticate owners and other users of land, and provides a fixed ledger of land use rights transactions.

At present blockchain technology is being explored as a proof of concept in several countries (e.g. Georgia, India, Ghana, Sweden) to track land titles (state to individual). We extend the idea to capture the granting of land use rights (individual to individual) making use of the decentralisation, peer-to-peer nature of blockchain technology. We conclude that blockchain technology can offer an effective means to manage land transactions, reduce inefficiency in land systems and is capable of addressing informal tenure issues. What it requires is the political will of governments to invest in the technology and bring land management into the industry 4.0 era.

Full talk
ID: 360 / 317R: 2
317R The role of digitalization in land transformation
Keywords: blockchain, conservation, agriculture, supply chains, governance

Blockchain in conservation and agricultural supply chains

Owen G. Cortner, Rachael D. Garrett, Christoph Nolte

Boston University, United States of America

Networked digital information technologies seem poised to play a central role in environmental governance during the 21st century, particularly as private companies become more engaged in the governance of products entering their supply chains. This study examines current efforts to test and deploy “distributed ledger technologies,” particularly blockchain initiatives, in the governance of land use activities. While most current blockchain initiatives in food supply chains are incentivized primarily by food safety and financial motives, implications of the technology for environmental outcomes of land use activities are unknown. Early implementers claim that blockchain could help improve knowledge about the provenance of agricultural products and associated environmental impacts and facilitate payments for ecosystem services. The non-local, secure, auditable, and transactional nature of blockchain differentiate it from other digital systems that could be used for these purposes. Informed by a landscape survey of blockchain initiatives and review of recent literature, we explore the implications of blockchain for land governance and sustainability through two detailed case studies of real-world blockchain implementation: one platform for ecological monitoring and contracts and another focused on trust in food supply chains. We question the circumstances under which such efforts may be effective at solving trust problems, including important contractual issues like adverse selection and information asymmetry, and contributing to conservation and improved agricultural management. We also describe challenging aspects of implementation including stakeholder involvement, data quality and origin, land tenure, and linking physical goods in supply chains and ecological states in production regions with their digital representations.

Full talk
ID: 903 / 317R: 4
317R The role of digitalization in land transformation
Keywords: blockchain, land administration, governance, enabling environment

Is blockchain a game-changer for Land Administration?

Aanchal Anand

World Bank, United States of America

Several blockchain pilots and proofs of concept have emerged in the last few years. Blockchain for land administration indeed offers the potential to increase accountability and transparency. But why has blockchain become more widely adopted, reaching scale? The answer may lie in issues like governance, lack of digitized records, lack of accurate ownership data etc. These are not problems technology can solve, and, therefore, investments in improving the enabling environment will be needed to allow for the adoption of blockchain technology by more countries and improve the overall security of tenure. In this presentation, the speaker presents the various challenges in land administration and says that technology is only a part of the solution, not all of it. Technology will need to be developed and deployed in a way that its benefits can go beyond the pilot stage into scalable solutions. For this to be achieved, Governments and the private sector will need to continue to invest in the enabling environment and governance issues.

Full talk
ID: 549 / 317R: 5
317R The role of digitalization in land transformation
Keywords: digitalisation, policy, agriculture, land-use, governance

Smart agricultural policy: How digitalization transforms land-use

Melf-Hinrich Ehlers, Robert Huber, Robert Finger

Agricultural Economics and Policy Group, ETH Zürich, Switzerland

Increasing use of information and communication technology transforms agricultural production (Walter et al. 2017). Farmers apply precision agriculture technologies to simultaneously use their land more efficiently and save on environmentally harmful inputs. Digital technologies also enable new opportunities in business and transparency governance along agricultural value chains. The fundamental changes triggered by digitalisation of how we produce, process and market agricultural products can have great impact on the use of farmland. Agricultural policies play an important role within this social-ecological system. Through market interventions, environmental regulations and production incentives, agricultural policy directly influences farmers’ decisions and consequently land use transformations worldwide. The impact of digitalisation on how we steer agricultural production, however, is a blind spot in current research efforts. Key opportunities of a digitalised agricultural policy would not only entail efficient monitoring of environmental regulations in time and space (e.g. trough remote sensing) but also novel policy measures that resolve challenges of ineffective targeting and non-point pollution trough mitigation of information asymmetries. However, there are also issues of governance of algorithms and data sovereignty within globalised information flows. While some applications of digital technologies, such as those use to administer farm subsidies of the European Union are already established, it is unclear what effect digitalisation can have on agricultural policy and associated land transformations more broadly and what challenges digital agricultural policy entails. We examine these questions on the basis of a systematic literature review on digitalisation in agriculture and develop a framework that categorises policy and associated effects as well as challenges of digitalisation. The classification presented will provide an important entry point for an interdisciplinary assessment of digital policy instruments on land use. It helps to identify research needs and governance challenges for future land transformation.

Flash talk
ID: 588 / 317R: 6
317R The role of digitalization in land transformation
Keywords: landscape typology, data mining, fuzzy representation

Evaluating the potential of machine learning algorithms to develop a landscape typology

Bettina Weibel, Adrienne Grêt-Regamey

ETH Zürich, Switzerland

Land system and landscape science both seek to understand land cover and land use change as a result from the actions and interactions between humans and natural factors. While several authors have tried to identify land use change based on remotely sensed data, most current landscape typologies fail to adequately address the role of humans in influencing land use processes. Data mining technologies have been promoted as opening the path to new classification approaches, but the question remains if they will better allow delineating landscape patterns emphasizing the cultural dimension of such coupled socio-ecological systems.

In this contribution, we compare various data mining approaches with expert classifications as they are applied in many different fields from finances to biology. The goal of the study is to provide a spatially explicit typology of the landscapes in the Canton of Schwyz, Switzerland and to explore if computer-based analysis provides other classes than the ones defined by experts. We perform our analysis based on a set of available spatial data including elevation and land use and land cover, population density but also historic traffic routes and specific historical landscape elements. In particular, we compare an indicator-based GIS fuzzy logic approach to K-Means clustering, convolutional neural networks and self-organizing maps for unsupervised approaches and random forest as well as support vector machine for supervised approaches.

Full talk
ID: 882 / 317R: 7
333R Mapping land system through coupling the biophysical and socioeconomic attributes based on remote sensing and big data approaches
Keywords: SDGs, earth observation, ecosystem modeling and analysis

Big Earth Data enabling baseline data collection in support of SDG indicators: the experience of TERN Landscapes of Australia

Graciela Isabelle Metternicht1,5, Matt Paget2,5, Alex Held3,5, Richard Lucas4,5, Mike Grundy2,5

1The University of New South Wales, Australia; 2CSIRO Land and Water, Canberra, Australia; 3CSIRO Centre for Earth Observation, Canberra Australia; 4Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, UK; 5TERN Landscapes

Big Earth Data open windows of opportunity for applications in support of the SDG global indicator framework, including baseline data collection and monitoring of SDG targets’ trends. Such opportunities of using Big EO data come with some challenges though: data storage and management, data quality and reliability, whether methods are transferable to different geographies and scales, or how the results can be interpreted to produce Voluntary National Review reports that inform the progress towards the implementation of the SDGs.

Since 2010, 12 government and academic institutions have been working cooperatively in the implementation of the Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN). One component of this network, the TERN's Landscapes platform, conducts environmental monitoring using remote sensing techniques to characterise and monitor Australian ecosystems at a landscape and continental scale. The platform also undertakes modelling and synthesis activities to extrapolate and interpolate from observational data to produce modelled data products (e.g. land cover vegetation fraction).

The TERN Landscape is an example of using Big Earth Observation data to characterise and detect change relating to vegetation structure and composition, land cover underlying forces, and bushfire dynamics and impacts, etcetera. Valuable lessons related to open data access, validation, calibration, inter-institutional cooperation for value added products in support of environmental management have been learned through its implementation.

This presentation will discuss key aspects of the formulation, development and implementation of TERN Landscapes, using dense time-series of optical satellite data from the Australian Geoscience Data Cube (AGDC), high resolution MiniSat data, Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR); collation of publicly available field, drone and aircraft observations; and the collection of new datasets under common protocols. It will reflect on the opportunities and challenges that national initiatives like TERN Landscapes present for effective operational delivery of value added Big EO in support of the SDGs indicators.