We had the pleasure to meet Laura Meggiolaro back in April 2014, when we both attended the joint CIARD/GODAN Consultation Meeting in Rome. It was there that we were introduced to Land Portal and got to learn more about the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). This meeting also provided us with the opportunity to learn more (always through our discussions with Laura) about the work of Land Portal and explore collaboration opportunities – Nikos Manouselis was also there and he quickly identify the potential contributions of Agro-Know in Land Portal.
In the meantime, Agro-Know helped Land Portal with the revamp of its Library Module (you can read more about this work here) and we got to meet Laura again at our offices. Laura was kind enough to provide us with her responses to our questions, which you may find right below!
Can you please tell us some things about your studies & your current affiliation?
I am the global coordinator of the Land Portal. I hold a master degree in communication and social sciences from the University of Padua and also a master degree in Economics, Human Development and Food Security from the Rome University RomaTre. I have been working for the last 12 years in the development sector collaborating with UN agencies and civil society organizations with a focus on land governance and information & knowledge management.
How does a typical day at work looks like in your case? What are your major tasks and responsibilities?
As the Land Portal coordinator I am actually working on several areas. My work mainly focuses on establishing networks and maintain lasting relationship with organizations and people who are interested in both land issues and access to information – particularly in developing countries. I enjoy trying to identify how the Land Portal can respond to specific user group needs especially those from developing countries I supervise, coordinate and monitor the work of the staff working for the Land Portal and oversee the operation and upgrading of the Portal technical infrastructure with particular emphasis on the Land Book. In doing so, I ensure that the Portal sticks to its core values its promotes: i) open development, open source, open content; ii) multistakeholderism and partnership and ii) local ownership.
My tasks also include developing plans and strategies for future work and mobilize resources for it.
Would you like to introduce us to the Land Portal? What is the concept behind it, which are its members and stakeholders?
The Land Portal is a specialized content aggregator focusing on bringing together information on land governance from multiple sources and building a specialized community of land experts from civil society organisations, governmental and intergovernmental institutions and academia. The overall vision of the Land Portal is to improve land governance to benefit those with the most insecure land rights and the greatest vulnerability to landlessness through information and knowledge sharing. The land portal strategy places open development at the heart of our work by adopting practices of open source, open content, open data, open culture and collaboration. At this scope the Landportal focuses on identifying where openness can help tip the balance of power in favour of the marginalised ensuring that they have effective access to the open data and knowledge that is made available. The Land Portal is very much focused on standards and tools that can increase access to available information that can help experts in the land sector all over the world making more informed decisions.
You are currently implementing some revisions in the Library Module of Land Portal. What are the expected improvements and new functionalities?
The Land Library has recently become an authoritative open source digital repository of documents, such as peer-reviewed publications, policies, maps, and multimedia content. It enables the collection and sharing of content from different stakeholder groups. Metadata are enriched to make the content discoverable and exposed as Linked data to make them machine readable and interoperable. All content from the Library is reusable by other including the software. Land Library client plug ins could be developed for different content management systems and installed into partner organization website for them to be able to better share and harvest data.
2015 is the International Year of Soils. Could this boost the work related to Land Portal and provide any opportunities?
The IYS 2015 principal goal is to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of soils for food security and ecosystem functions. Among the specific objectives proposed by FAO particular attention has been paid to raising awareness among civil society and decision makers about the importance of soil for human life; educate the public about the crucial role soils plays in different sectors; advocate for rapid capacity enhancement for soil information collection and monitoring at all levels.
The Landportal can have a major role collaborating in the achievement of all these objectives. Through the open structure that characterize the portal, we can share information on all the issues related to soils, we can bring all these information together in one place providing a range of ways for the information to be accessed. Also, the different sections that compose the Portal would provide several services for raising attention on the issues related to soils. I’m thinking about the Land Book in which all the data related to soils can be included and diversified by countries. The land debate, which can host debates about the topic and promote the International Year of Soils’ events. The Land Library, that provides for a repository of documents free and easy to access.
The Agriculture Data Interoperability Group of the Research Data Alliance (RDA) is a domain-oriented interest group to work on all issues related to data important for the development of global agriculture. Would you find the idea of a Working Group on land and soil data interoperability under the umbrella of this group interesting? Would you see a role for Land Portal in such an effort?
The objective of the Agricultural Data Interoperability Group is to represent all stakeholders producing, managing, aggregating, sharing and consuming data for agricultural research and innovation. Basically this is what the Landportal does by getting information from different sources and put them together to promote a more inclusive and informed debate on land issues and ultimately improving land governance. The idea of creating a specific group of interest on land and soil data is absolutely interesting because it would create opportunities to work closer with institutions working on that particular topic.
Laura during her visit at the Agro-Know office
If there was a magic way that would allow you to have a software tool or platform in your hands, aiming to assist you in your work, what would be the top three features that you would like it to have?
- The capacity to identify the needs of our users.
- The capacity to suggest continuous innovation
What are your impressions from Agro-Know so far?
Our collaboration with Agro-Know has proved to be really positive. We have a common vision of how increased access to data and information can empower vulnerable communities and how open and linked data can help to achieve that.
We would like to thank Laura for her detailed responses and we are already looking forward to exploring new opportunities for collaboration. In the meantime, you are welcome to check out the Land Portal website and follow them on Facebook & Twitter for more news and info!