Land has value. But does data on Land? “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore,” Mark Twain.

Who owns the Land around us was the political question for many centuries. You were disenfranchised if you didn’t own land, with no representation in parliament. But what about data on Land?

While our economy is very different today, some questions remain the same.

  • In today’s digital economy, 70% of the 10 most valuable companies are digital (up from 20% 10 years ago).
  • Economist and social theorist Jeremy Rifkin says we’re in the 3rd Industrial Revolution and that Data is now where utility value resides.
  • If this is the case, are we in danger of losing digital “real estate”, through land grabs and enclosures?

Digital Platforms are most often owned by Venture Capital – “Rentiers” that control labour, resources and money; simply by dint of having capital and controlling access to markets or data. Often the “rent” charged is extortionate – 50% or more.

As Global Corporations erode our democracy, are we losing our representation and ability to democratically participate in decisions that affect Land use, our communities and our environment?

With moves from our government to allow better access to data, to inform our decisions on Land, here at Shared Assets we’re considering:

What value does Land Data have?

  • How should it be owned? (and not just the data, but the platform that is the “gatekeeper”)
  • How do we fund better access to this data?

The question of Who owns England (and the rest of the UK) remains as important today, though I’m curious as to who owns (and controls) our data?

The story of Land acquisition and ownership, the history of our land, what it is now, and how it might be owned and shaped in future is all data. It has a correlation with the story of the commons…

The internet and our digital lives are a “place”. A place where there are squatters, spaces to meet, discuss politics, socialise, do business and research. It is often a public place, sometimes a private place, often a place where access is controlled and where there are gate keepers.

Our digital world has seen gold rushes, land grabs, mergers, acquisitions and enclosure; monopolisation by a capital class. Platform Coops are a response to this, with decentralised democratic ownership & fair access; a Digital Commons.

Commons have a resource, rules and a community. We have a resource (data and platform) and a community of users, so what are the rules? How does this fit together?

  • What if community groups and permaculture designers owned a mapping app?

We’ve explored cooperative ownership through Cooperative UK’s Unfound accelerator programme. A cooperative structure feels like a good fit: multi-stakeholder with a value proposition between five groups:

  • Workers
  • Government corporations (Ordnance Survey, Land Registry)
  • Local Authorities (with obligations to provide access to land for allotments and self build)
  • Communities and Community led-development
  • The Land Professionals (that help service these needs), shaping our environment
LX Platform Coop

So we’re considering the governance structure and how this operates, with representatives from all stakeholders, for the benefit of all participants and our communities; not just developers, venture capitalists or shareholder primacy.

After our grant applications for further funding for Land Explorer have been turned down from NESTA, Big Lottery’s Digital Fund, Social Tech Trust and Ordnance Survey’s Geovation. I have to ask: are we doing something wrong? Is the service not needed, or the value proposition (that better access to information on Land can support our communities making better decisions on the land around them) flawed? Or is it that our proposed cooperative ownership model, doesn’t fit with traditional views on company ownership?

Certainly, where Geovation are concerned, this might be the case; with the team there very excited about our proposals, but the application form only allowing for traditional “what is your expected PropTech company valuation and what equity stake are you willing to part with” questions. Our proposed ownership model is new and doesn’t fit this old paradigm.

  • Do we need another service for Estate Agents and Developers (however much profit it might generate)?
  • Or do we need a Platform with democratic access, for our communities, with shared benefits?

So we’re soul searching and putting it out to collective wisdom. As users of Land Explorer, you can expect to receive a survey shortly, so you can help answer some of these questions and we can understand what next for Land Explorer. How do we support a Digital Commons, what does this look like and how could it be funded? If you’d like to participate in this research, help shape the future of Land Explorer and our relationship to data and access in our Digital environment, please register now.

At Shared Assets, we believe that there needs to be stewardship of our Land Data, for our children and our children’s children. That to change something, we need to know it and be able to benchmark and measure change over time. How we can adapt, build in resilience, restore and regenerate our environment is crucial, when considering the unfolding climate catastrophe. Geospatial data and tools to plan are an essential part of this decision making and our response, to the greatest challenge we’ve ever faced.

We need to promote common good data use, with shared benefits. We invite you to be a part of the story of Land Data and the Digital Commons.

When I wrote a blog last year (Land Explorer – our journey so far), we were eagerly awaiting the outcome of the geospatial commissions deliberations and looked forward to where our journey would take us next (and to Summer!)

With our new features launch planned for this summer, we are still looking forward to the release of data (now scheduled for 2020). For our test users, we’re adding:

  • Land Registry Data: National Polygon Service, title, deeds plans (Commercial & Corporate open access)
  • Land for sale: both private and public: Local Authority Assets, Homes England and private Land sales

…and we’re now looking forward to this summer!

#CommonGoodLandUse #SharedBenefits #SharedAssets #PlatformCoops #Unfound #DigitalCommons #WhoOwnsData #CommonGoodDataUse

We’re always interested in your views and opinions – if you’d like more information on Land Explorer, how it can help you, or to be involved in workshops and discussions about the tools that we’re developing, please get in touch!

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