A Geographic Information System (GIS) established in Hargeisa Municipality with technical assistance from UN-HABITAT has helped to increase annual property tax revenues by 248 percent, from USD169,062 in 2005 to USD588,754 in 2008.
The GIS in Hargeisa started in 2004 as part of the UNDP Governance and Financial Services Programme and continued in 2005 under the Urban Development Programme for the Somali region, funded by the European Commission and UNDP.
The main challenge was to assist the local authority to find ways of increasing municipal revenue to enable investments in basic public infrastructure and services. It was decided to devise a rapid, cost-effective approach to collect complete, up-to-date household-level data for the whole municipality.
However, the system had to provide quick, visible results to attract political support. It also had to be simple and incorporate on-the-job training to allow easy operation and maintenance by municipal staff. A building-based geographical database with a limited number of relevant variables for each building would be a perfect fit.
The first step was to build a spatial database consisting of a map that shows the location of each and every building in the municipality. To do this, a high-resolution geo-referenced satellite image of Hargeisa was created to provide a record of all the buildings on the base map in a table that also generates unique numbers to identify each building. This exercise took three weeks to complete.
The second step was to build a property database giving details such as the name of the building occupant, the floor area, plot area, the number of floors, building material and quality, service connections, and property type.
In the third phase, this was enhanced using ordinary digital photographs taken on the ground. The results showed that there are 59,000 buildings in Hargeisa, 37,000 (63 percent) of them residential and 7,200 (12 percent) commercial. Some 10,800 (18 percent) properties were as yet undeveloped.
The information gathered was then used to determine tax rates.