IN DEVELOPED COUNTRIES, MOST PEOPLE TAKE FOR GRANTED CERTAIN basic public goods, such as clean drinking water, public education for children, and a tax collection system to finance public expenditures. By contrast, many developing countries lack the basic infrastructure of a modern state, such as a cadastre (land registration) system. Often, only a tiny portion of land parcels are mapped and official records consist solely of paper maps.
A cadastre is the core of a land administration system. It contains up-to-date information on each parcel, including a record of ownership and interests in the land, its value, and, usually, a geometric description. The first cadastral maps were found in Egypt, dating back to 3,000 BCE; the cadastral system was revolutionized in the 19th century by Napoleon. Beginning in the 1990s, radically new concepts were developed as to how to build cadastres and how to utilize them to improve land management, with a focus on sustainable economic development and the eradication of poverty.