Technical Testing of Mobile Applications for Cadastral Surveys

Following our previous blog post titled Introduction to User Experience Testing of Mobile Applications for Cadastral Surveys, we continue our look back at the work we did a while ago on evaluating mobile tools/apps aimed at cadastral surveys and land/property mapping. In this blog post, we explain the tool we developed for technical testing of mobile applications.

Through user experience workshops, we designed an evaluation tool that can be used to scrutinize mobile applications against the highest professional standards and legal thresholds. The evaluation tool was divided into two parts: the technical testing and user experience testing.

The technical specifications were developed during the user experience workshops in Nairobi and tested under the real conditions in Taita Hills. Technical testing of applications touched on evaluating the technical capabilities of mobile applications, such as whether they allow for the capture of photos, calculation of land areas, whether they allow for flexible fields, etc., and other data that is most necessary in parcel mapping and land documentation.

Below are the minimal technical specifications that each tool should have to ensure a successful data collection process on parcels/land:

1. Contact: the ability to collect multiple contact details, such as name, ID, date and other custom fields.

The legal process, starting at the land registrar and across the board, requires the collection of identity documents and contact details of the applicant, information on the owner or multiple owners, information on the certified surveyor conducting the survey, and in case of land disputes, disputing parties.

2. Photo: the ability to take and upload photos into the system easily.

Taking a photo of the parcel or boundary points is essential for boundaries, especially for general boundaries in rural areas. Additionally, photo feature can be used to collect pictures of owners, neighbors, their IDs, signed documents, disputed areas, etc.

3. Flexible Fields: the ability to create new fields on the go.

Flexible Fields are one of the most important features for the usefulness of the application. There are several use cases for Flexible Fields:

* A plot can have more than one owner, or each plot can have a unique number of owners, neighbors, etc. Flexible Fields should allow the user to add as many fields as necessary.

* A boundary point or a boundary itself can be unique (maybe there is a dispute on the boundary or a surveyor needs to indicate an offset point). Flexible Fields should allow additional information to be attached on a feature.

* Different government bodies require different information. Depending on the purpose of the survey and the targeted government body, the user should be able to create their own form/fields based on the template form from the respective authority. For example, if the user needs to satisfy information for the Registrar of Lands or the Survey of Kenya, they should be able to use the template from the respective body as a guide to creating their own custom fields. This way it is ensured that relevant information is collected each time.

4. Preview/Review: the ability to allow for previewing of results.

Due to the amount of information gathered at each field visit a Preview/Review feature should be necessary.

5. Editing: the ability to allow for editing of information after review.

This feature is linked to the Preview/Review feature and it enables for correction of errors or to add more data if necessary. Given the legal sensitivity of the information gathered, the user should be able to correct mistakes, such as wrong spelling of names, or add additional data.

6. Map or aerial imagery integration: the ability to view, plot, edit, and review coordinates on the map.

A map or aerial imagery interface enables visual interpretation of the parcel in question. For example, aerial imagery can support mapping efforts through visual image identification of the parcel’s boundary points, features, amenities, etc. Locations of collected boundary points can be verified with the help of the imagery and, if necessary, manually moved to its proper location. Map integration enables for greater accuracy of mapping results.

7. Sharing: the ability to easily share information with other users.

One of the main advantages if ICTs is its ability to make information more transparent. In some instances, the officials representing a community can communicate on the process, progress, findings, etc. with each member of the community. Sharing of information also allows for collective custody of data, reducing the incidences of disputes and corruption. Sharing can promote openness, which in turn can lead to better relationships between neighbors.

8. Storage: the ability to save files both locally and on the cloud.

Most land administration documents in Kenya are recorded on and stored in paper format. This makes them vulnerable to risk, loss or damage, and susceptible to manipulation and fraud. Digitally stored data in the cloud can mitigate the above-mentioned risks.

9. Acreage: the ability to calculate the size of the area based on boundary points.

The parcel area size is one of the most sought for information by the landowners. Most landowners know the approximate size of their parcels. This information was often passed on to them through inheritance; however, a proper survey of land has rarely been carried out. The application should enable users to calculate area size based on the mapped boundary coordinates of the parcel (in Kenya acreage is the unit of reference for land ownership).

10. Remarks: the ability to add additional text.

Aside from these specific technical considerations, the user should have an opportunity to record any other observation that he or she deems necessary.

These are the technical specifications we developed and tested in the field. The next blog post will look at the user experience specifications.

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