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Fall 2009

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GIS—The Right Tool to Help Reform Property Rights

Keynote Speaker de Soto Explains the Mystery of Capital

Hernando de Soto is no stranger to traveling from his home in Lima, Peru, to meet with world dignitaries. photo of Hernando de SotoThe Peruvian economist and president of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy (ILD) is known for his work on the informal economy and on the importance of property rights. With ILD, de Soto has worked on the design and implementation of capital formation programs in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and the former Soviet nations. Some 30 heads of state have invited de Soto to carry out these ILD programs in their countries. It was Esri's honor to have de Soto travel to San Diego, California, as a keynote speaker for Esri's 2009 International User Conference.

In his Keynote Address, de Soto spoke about the inability of the world's poor to gain formal recognition of their property rights. He believes this factor to be a major stumbling block to alleviating poverty. He suggests that almost everywhere in the world, the poor have one thing in common: the only significant asset they have is the land they occupy.

Very few of these people have ever received any type of legal recognition that the land they occupy is theirs. Without legal documents or records that prove landownership, they cannot do the things that have helped establish the western world's successful market economy, such as borrowing against, selling, and setting up a permanent business on the land that one legally owns.

Though de Soto is not a GIS specialist, he is a proponent of applying the technology to help formalize landownership in poverty-stricken countries. For example, de Soto pointed out that many of his ideas were put into action recently when a project in Ghana began using geospatial technologies to create a land titling process and GIS-based land records system. This implementation significantly reduced the time and cost involved in collecting and documenting property ownership information and increased the number of formalized land rights. It's a GIS-based system such as this that de Soto believes can help streamline and eliminate the red tape in the land titling processes of many countries, empowering people with secured land rights and a formal place in our world. (See the four-article series based on de Soto's ideas published in ArcNewsFall 2008, Winter 2008/2009, Spring 2009, and Summer 2009.)

More Information

For more information about Hernando de Soto and ILD, visit

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