[SE21-ICT] From Data Buckets to Living Platforms: Pitfalls and Opportunities in Designing Spatial Tools and Data Platforms for Sustainable Development

DAY 3 – Friday 29 June – 14:00-15:30

Swiss Tech | Room 2B | Level Garden 
Session Leader
Albrecht Ehrensperger
Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern, Switzerland


Albrecht Ehrensperger is a senior research scientist and head of thematic cluster “Socio-Economic Transitions” at the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) University of Bern, Switzerland. He is member of CDE’s management and former head of CDE’s geo-information unit. He completed his PhD in 2006 on the potentials and limitations of geo-information technology in different development contexts in Kenya. Since, he has been coordinating several development and research projects with a focus on biomass energy and biofuels, as well as sustainable land management.
Andreas Heinimann
University of Bern, Switzerland
Andreas Heinimann is an associate director and senior research scientist at the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) and a senior lecturer in geo-processing at the Institute of Geography, both at the University of Bern, Switzerland. He has a record of accomplishment in detecting, analysing and characterizing land use change processes and their impacts on socio-ecological systems at various scales. His research work focuses on methodological developments in remote sensing, spatial analysis, and online spatial decision support tools, as well as the development of approaches to capture sustainability trade-offs, or participatory approaches at local and national level.
With the fast development of digital mapping technology, development practitioners increasingly use tools such as Geographical Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and various online mapping applications and interactive platforms, to support decision-making, monitoring, and local empowerment. In the past few decades, many such initiatives have appeared and disappeared again after a short while.
Various explanations have been formulated pertaining to the lack of sustainability of IT based mapping and knowledge-sharing approaches. Mostly, critics pointed to the lack of user friendliness and of accurate data, as well as the continued existence of a digital divide that hinders those, who would potentially benefit from such tools and technologies, to access them.
We put forward two additional hypotheses: (1) The demand for IT based mapping and knowledge sharing tools is very often formulated by intermediaries (NGOs, donors, scientists) rather than by beneficiaries or target processes, leading to flaws in the design of approaches and tools. (2) Not all initiatives face sustainability challenges to the same extent; the type of processes that they intend to support is key in influencing sustainability. Accordingly, we identify five potentially archetypal categories of processes supported by IT based tools and approaches: governance (planning, priority setting), transparency (awareness creation, lobbying), monitoring (impact assessments), forecasting (scenario formulation, outcomes of decisions), and advocacy (empowerment, support of litigation processes).

Panelists and Abstracts


Spatial Biodiversity Data Platforms: Current Resources and Future Opportunities in the Context of Sustainable Development


Davnah Payne1, Eva M Spehn1, Mark Snethlage1, Walter Jetz2

1Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland

2Yale University, New Haven, USA


Presenting author’s email address: davnah.payne@ips.unibe.ch


Biography of Presenting Author: Dr. Payne is an evolutionary biologist with experience in the development and management of large data and knowledge platforms. After several years working with biomedical data platforms at the interface between science, industry, and policy, she is now contributing to the development and implementation of the Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment (GMBA) mountain portal an online data platform for international and cross-disciplinary collaboration on the assessment, conservation, and sustainable use of mountain biodiversity.



Addressing the challenges associated with the management and conservation of biodiversity in the context of competing sustainable development goals requires access to high-resolution spatio-temporal biodiversity information. Here we evaluate the usefulness of existing biodiversity portals in providing policy-relevant data and information and discuss needs and opportunities based on a review of stakeholder requirements.


E-government on the test: a cross-sectoral data integration and sharing platform for land governance in Laos


Michael Epprecht1, Nanhthavong Vong1; Hanaphom Savanh2; Phommachanh Anongsone3

1Centre for Development and Environment, Universität Bern, Bern, Switzerland

2Department of Planning and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Laos

3Department of Land Administration, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Laos


Presenting author’s email address: michael.epprecht@cde.unibe.ch


Biography of Presenting Author: Michael Epprecht is a senior researcher with the Centre for Development and Environment of the University of Bern. He heads CDE’s Country Office in the Lao PDR, and coordinates CDE’s different research and development cooperation projects in Laos. His main fields of expertise include spatial dimensions of socio-economic disparities, and is an expert in approaches to promote cross-sectoral information integration and analysis for planning of sustainable development pathways, and for linking the generation of scientific knowledge with on-going development discourses.



Sectoral governance approaches have become ineffective in tackling increasingly complex development challenges. Some governments have therefore decided to explore new modes of collaboration and information exchange between key departments. The Lao government, for example, is developing a cross-sectoral database and platform on land investments, hosted within its national e-Government framework. This information system is part of the Lao DECIDE Info project, a multi-stakeholder governmental information integration and sharing initiative. Institutions can collaborate on a voluntary basis and make their data available to selected user groups in a standardized way. This facilitates cross-sectoral information exchange, integration and analysis. Currently, the platform provides one-stop access to highly detailed information at the national level, integrated across the following sectors: demography, poverty, education, health, foreigner direct investment in lands, ODA, agriculture and environment.


Developing A Crowd-Sourced Web Platform On Large-Scale Land Acquisitions: Lessons Learned


Lukas Vonlanthen1

1Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern, Switzerland


Presenting author’s email address: lukas.vonlanthen@cde.unibe.ch


Biography of Presenting Author: Lukas Vonlanthen is a Research Scientist at the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) in charge of developing web applications and platforms. These projects often include a spatial component and are built using open source technologies.



The Land Observatory (www.landobservatory.org) was established to test a new approach for collecting information on large-scale land acquisitions using a crowd-sourced web platform. A highly customizable and multilingual tool based on open source technologies was developed and deployed in four countries. However, the project did not take off and was later integrated into the global Land Matrix initiative. Major challenges included difficulties with data particularities in local contexts, different user needs and lacking participation at the end of the technical development. The presentation will highlight these challenges and lessons learned from them. A redesigned version of the platform is currently used in Myanmar. The project team took the lessons learned into account and focused on increased user engagement. Crowd-sourced platforms have a large potential but need to be constantly updated and kept alive, an investment often underestimated upon project inception.



OneMap Myanmar: Co-producing Data and Knowledge through Transformative Partnerships Towards Evidence-informed and Inclusive Land Governance

Zar Chi Aye1, Andreas Heinimann1, 2, Joan Bastide1

1 Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland

2 Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland

Presenting author’s email address: zarchi.aye@cde.unibe.ch

Biography of Presenting Author (80 words): Zar Chi Aye is a senior research scientist at the Centre for Development and Environment as well as an experienced researcher at the Institute of Earth Sciences of the University of Lausanne, with a background in Computer Technology and Geo-informatics. Her PhD focused on the application of a collaborative decision support platform in risk management of natural hazards in Europe. She is currently involved in different projects for design and development of web-GIS platforms using open source and ESRI technologies.


OneMap Myanmar is a long-term initiative to establish an open-access online database for land related data, information and knowledge. OneMap Myanmar brings together 25 government agencies, civil society organizations, private sector, scientists and ethnic groups to produce, improve and share high-quality geospatial data, in order to foster evidence-based, transparent and inclusive decision-making for the management and governance of land and other natural resources. At the regional level, decentralised governmental services, CSO, private companies and ethnic groups work together to address land-related issues. They work together in collecting precise and up-to-date information on the current use and tenure of the land. Afterwards, they discuss and validate this information through multi-stakeholder platforms. This inclusive dialogue based on accurate data and validated maps supports sustainable decision-making on land use planning and management. Through this process, accurate open data becomes an enabler for dialogues on conflicting issues around land.