A Digital Mindset Will Revolutionize Education: Legal Education as a Global Model
April 24, 2022

In conversation with Evidence and Methods Lab

Evidence & Methods Lab

Tell us a little bit about your organisation and why you set it up

Evidence and Methods Lab (EML), is a civic tech organisation that focuses on simplifying, visualizing, and sharing information, as well as collating evidence. Founded in 2016, we are Uganda’s premier civic tech initiative that utilizes technology to simplify, visualize and share information as well as collate what works in generating evidence. Our vision is to become the leading civic tech initiative in Africa.

At its inception, the organisation had a transformative objective to influence the way information sharing on various aspects of life is done in order to reach various audiences. We targeted to work with organizations and individuals that generate knowledge in form of; policies, laws, studies, research, etc. to package this information into formats that enable users to easily understand and use it as well as share it on the platforms that enable the target groups to easily access it. We aimed to use technology to package information into creatively crafted infographics (still and motion graphics) and then utilise the growing tech space (social media/ mobile apps, and other digital spaces) to share the information widely to reach different target groups.

This idea was based on the background that, the information age in the 21st century is driven and dependent on; generation, flow, and access to information. Information is a powerful tool for accountability, transparency, service delivery, knowledge sharing, as well as innovation.

At the core of our work is the belief that when we use the right tools to package information appropriately, we effectively contribute to informed and engaged citizens resultantly contributing to demand accountability, access to justice, a thirst for information, and the overall, improved service delivery and access to justice for all.

What has been your greatest success/are you most proud of so far?

The failure rate for start-ups in our context is quite high. We are proud to have made it through our first five years! Not just existing but having grown into a thriving civic tech organization, with clarity of vision, attracting the attention of various partners and clients including the Ford Foundation, the United States Embassy Kampala, the Voice initiative of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Makerere University Kampala, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Open Society Initiative for West Africa, University of Edinburgh etc.

What is the greatest challenge you have faced?

The complexity of the law and legal procedures, as a legal innovation that focuses on simplifying and repackaging legal information in a manner that is easily understandable by an ordinary person. One of the biggest challenges we face is that some laws cannot easily be broken down, some of the laws are too long, and doing away with one or two words or even a punctuation mark would distort its meaning or affect its interpretation.

Poor reception of legal innovations by the general public that believes that legal services and solutions can only be obtained in law firms and the courts of law.

Limited access to stable internet services and restrictive government policies on internet usage. In 2018, the government introduced Over the Top Tax (OTT) that was to be paid by users of the internet on a daily basis, additionally, during the past two presidential elections, there have been internet shutdowns nationwide. To date, Facebook, a platform on which a lot of online legal information is shared is still shut, this has been a major setback to us as legal innovators.

Delays in the passing of laws that are needed by the public, in many cases, bills passed by parliament take a long time to be assented to by the President, this leaves a gap for us legal innovators that need to keep the public updated on the new laws that have been passed. A case in point is the Landlord and Tenant Bill which has been in the pipeline since 2019, and the Succession Amendment Bill which was in and out of Parliament for over 15 years, was finally assented to by the President in April 2022.

Limited use of the internet and appreciation of technology by would-be users of legal innovations that are tech-based.

What are the top challenges facing African lawyers today, in terms of data and technology?

Many lawyers are data and technology illiterate, this can be attributed to the fact that modules around technology have not been adopted and embraced in many law schools, this limits the creativity of lawyers and their ability to use technology as they provide legal services.

The perception society has about lawyers and the legal profession, many people would want to go through the old legal procedures and systems. Selling a legal innovation or product to would-be clients or beneficiaries of the innovation is a challenge many legal innovators face.

How do you think lawyers can make use of legal tech to address those challenges?

Lawyers need to come to terms with the fact that there have been advancements in technology and find means of working towards using technology to better legal service delivery and not be rigid in fighting against technology. Taking a tech-related course to better appreciate how technology can be used in the legal sphere would enhance their appreciation of tech-based legal solutions.

What legal tech innovation do you think will be most widely adopted in Africa in the next decade?

One of Africa’s opportunities but also problems is its rapidly increasing population that will soon escalate land and property rights as well as strain the justice system. There will be growing demand for a legal innovation that focuses on creating a people-driven legal solution as well create more efficient and alternative justice systems.

What regulatory and legislative environment is required to facilitate greater use of legal tech on the continent?

Legislation that allows for cross border legal practice, the existing laws and legislation are restrictive in terms of jurisdiction and practising law in a country where one did his or her bar course and got enrolled as an advocate. A lawyer in Nigeria cannot easily practice in Uganda or any other country within the continent. Legislating a less restrictive tech-based legal environment that allows lawyers to use technology to provide legal services and solutions across the continent irrespective of whether they did the bar course in a particular country or are enrolled as advocates in the country where their services are needed would be an added advantage in the use of legal tech.

If you could change one thing to facilitate the growth of legal tech in Africa, what would that be?

In the legal education system right from the university level, law students should be initiated into tech-based legal solutions at an early stage of their law career. Legal education is somewhat rigid and not alive to the changes that have been brought as a result of technological advancements worldwide such as Artificial Intelligence.

Who or what is your greatest inspiration?

We are inspired by the desire to create a country that works for all citizens where governments are responsive, and citizens are active. We believe that we can only achieve that if citizens are informed enough to play their part to protect themselves from violation and to call leaders to account.

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