Rewarding legal tech-novations

More than six million Kenyans struggle to get access to justice. the leverage to this challenge could be in technology

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Cham Semanou from HeLawyer win the 2018 JustInnovate Finals Lagos for a mobile app specializing in legal advice.
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By NLM Writer

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here are about two hundred judges and less than four hundred magistrates serving some forty four million Kenyans. The result of this is a crippling backlog of cases which has seen some matters stand in abeyance for decades. Corruption has also grown increasingly rampant with many litigants willing to do anything that will fast-track their cases.

The Innovating Justice Awards

To alleviate the crisis, the Hague Institute for Innovation of Law (HiiL)  has partnered with local companies, tech-preneurs, innovators and the Judiciary with a view of finding the next big idea that will enhance access to justice. Every year, HiiL hosts the Innovating Justice Awards where they identify the best innovations for funding and mentorship. This year’s awards were held on 21st September at the iHUB Centre in Kilimani, Nairobi

Among the pitching start-ups was Btrack Global which enables motorcyclists to track their motorcycles through the use of mobile phones and therefore enable quick recovery in the event of loss. Btrack Global comes at a time when motorcycles are taking centre stage as the prime means of transport whose usage accounts for the greatest percentage of traffic related offences and casualties.

Others included the Uliza Wakili LLP application, which provides cheap means of alternative dispute resolution to Small Market Enterprises and start-ups; Wakili Mkononi, a social enterprise that offers legal aid services and legal networking services on a digital platform; Wasilianahub, a pioneer collaborative online and mobile tech-justice market place aimed at building Africa’s largest Certified Professional Mediators portal for the advancement of the Continent’s mediation practice; icourtroom which acts as a repository of wildlife crime data and is tailored to analyse wildlife related cases and serves as a measure of law enforcement efficacy; Nusu Hub which enables people from low income and rural areas of Tanzania to hire legal professionals, all of whom are pre-screened and vetted; and Viamo from Rwanda, which is developing information on access to justice that will be made available on demand in pre-recorded audio and text, on a toll-free mobile service number.

According to HiiL’s research in Kenya, which covered 6005 people in 28 counties (54 percent men and 46 percent women primarily in rural areas – or 71 percent of the sample size) – up to 81 percent of the group was subject to one or more legal problems in the past four years. What is more, 54 percent of the group admitted experiencing extreme stress or mental health problems, while 46 percent lost a significant amount of time trying to pursue justice.

Interestingly, the research revealed, about 41 percent of people fail to seek legal advice on serious legal problems such as crime, land, family, employment and money. Still, 19 percent of people do not take action to resolve their issue.

The estimates from this study indicate that more than six million Kenyans struggle to get access to justice, which is a significant size of the population.

Speaking at the event, Gatembu Kairu, a Judge of the Court of Appeal and the Chairman of the Judiciary ICT Committee, challenged innovators to provide solutions geared towards helping Courts move away from the old style of Judges recording proceedings long-hand. He also asked entrepreneurs to partner with the Judiciary towards enhancing effective case management and minimising human interactions with court files in the Registry as well as enabling litigants to file applications and monitor their cases at their own comfort without having to do so at specific registries

The event was facilitated by, among others, the Thomas Reuters Foundation, the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ) and The Advocacy Accelerator. Experts from the Governance, Justice, Law and Order sector were also in attendance.

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