Coronavirus (Covid-19): Latest updates and information
Skip to main content Skip to navigation

JILT 2003 (1) - Dennis Aganyo Onwonga

 

Contents

1.

Executive Summary

2. Background and Context
3. Introduction
3.1

Legal Informatics and Legal Education Interface

3.2 Legal Informatics and Legal Practice Interface
3.3 Legal Informatics and Legal Reform Interface
3.4 Legal Informatics and Governance Interface
3.5 Legal Informatics and Legal Awareness Interface
3.6 Legal Informatics and Justice System Interface
3.7 Legal Informatics and Access to Legal Services
4. LawNet Initiative
4.1 Overall Goal
4.2 Vision
4.3. Objectives
4.3.1 Recent Development in East Africa
4.3.2 LawNet Model
4.4. Scope of Activities
4.4.1 The East African Legal Information Institute (EALII)

5.

The EALII Activities

5.1. Computerization of Laws (Statutory Law and Case Law)
5.1.1 Law Library
5.1.2 Legal Information Center
5.2. Student Resource Centre
5.3. Legal Technology Centre
5.4. Research Center
5.5. Other Services
5.5.1 Legal Reporting
5.5.2 Mini-Sites for Law& Civic Organisations
5.5.3 Question and Answer
5.5.4 Legal Support Services
5.5.5 Law Bookshop
5.5.6 Others
6. A Case for Law Libraries
7. Primary Beneficiaries
7.1. Legal Fraternity
7.2. Civil Society
7.3. The General Populace
8. Problems and Challenges
8.1 Infrastructural Problems
8.2 Information Exchange
8.3 Cost and Funding of Projects

8.4

Legal Fraternity Rebellion

9. Strategies
9.1 Participatory Approach
9.2 Fund Raising Strategy
9.3 Institutional Collaboration
9.4 Working Together
9.5 Maximum Outreach
10. Conclusion
  Notes and References

Word icon and download article in .rtf format  Download


LawNet Initiative: A Case for the
East African Legal Information Institute

Dennis Aganyo Onwonga
The East Africa Legal Resource Center
aganyo@eastafricanlaw.com


'Re-engineering Law and Lawyers: The Case for Information, Communication Technology Use in Legal Education and Practice in East Africa ', Dennis Aganyo Onwonga

Paper* presented at SubTech 2002: Virtual Learning for Virtual Practice Conference, held at The University of Warwick, Coventry, UK, 3rd July 2002

* Revised Paper


This is a Work in Progress published on 4 July 2003.

Citation: Aganyo Onwonga, D, ' LAWNET Initiative: A Case for the East African Legal Information Institute ', 2003 (1) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/03-1/onwonga.html>.
New citation (as at 1/1/04): <http:www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/2003_1/onwonga/>.


1. Executive Summary

The information revolution in the last decade promises to make the knowledge base of mankind available anywhere, anytime, in any language. It enables for the first time in centuries a crucial breakthrough in the productivity of education and training. The ability of human beings to access, interpret and use the information is what information revolution is all about. Technology networks are transforming the traditional map of development, expanding people's horizons and creating the potential to realize in a decade progress that required generations in the past.1

In Sub-Saharan Africa unfortunately, the telecommunication networks and infrastructure lag behind the rest of the world, but the sharp and sustained fall in the cost of processing, storing and transmitting information coupled with the local and external support towards the development of the sector, offers Africa a dramatic opportunity to leapfrog into the future, breaking out of decades of stagnation and decline.

In view of the present nature of knowledge-economies, educational coverage and quality must increase, and education must be lifelong rather than terminal, as the rate of change and obsolescence is very rapid in most disciplines. This has thus fostered the need to empower Africa develop its capability to produce, package and use information for decision making. It is the key to the rapid spread of knowledge and skills.

The new and burgeoning area of law and technology increasingly uses terms like 're-engineering' or 'retooling' and 'integration'. 'Reengineering' is defined as a 'fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes to achieve dramatic improvements in critical, contemporary measures of performance, such as costs, quality, service, and speed'.2 It is in the spirit of re-engineering the legal profession in the region that the LawNet initiative has set to establish a framework for harnessing the electronic medium to create an extensive and professional digital legal resource centre and law library for the East African Region. This is geared towards revitalising the state of legal education, awareness and practice in the region.

LawNet has undertaken to establish the East African Legal Information Institute (EALII) in collaboration with a number of partners and stakeholders. The EALII registered as a public TRUST aspires to be the largest free source of regional legal materials on the internet. Our scope of publication will include public legal information: that is, primary legal materials (legislation, treaties and decisions of courts and tribunals); and secondary legal materials created by public bodies for purposes of public access (law reform, policy papers and more specialised -subject specific - databases etc). Our policy agenda is to convince all stakeholders in the field of legal publishing including: parliaments, governments, courts, law reform bodies and other public institutions to make legal materials they control available free via the internet and intranets.


2. Background and Context

ICT provides developing nations with an unprecedented opportunity to meet vital development goals such as poverty reduction, basic healthcare, and education far more effectively than before. It can make an important development impact because it can overcome barriers of social, economic, and geographical isolation, increase access to information and education, and enable poor people to take part in more of the decisions that affect their lives.3 The expanding digital divide is making a new dimension of poverty - information poverty - highly significant and visible.

The potential levels of impact (present and future) derived from this technology-related gap are sufficiently serious to have placed the digital divide atop the national and international development agenda. The use of such interactive multi-media tools as the World Wide Web, Digital Libraries, CD-ROMs, Satellite Communications, E-mail and Video Conferencing offers an alternative model to complement traditional educational and information dissemination technologies.

The state of legal publishing in the region has been wanting for the last two decades; this has in many ways hampered the development of legal education and practice. There are only a small number of judgements that are written and recorded to form precedential materials. These are generally only available in the local court house library in the jurisdiction in which the judgements are rendered. In addition, access to legal research materials generally, including writings and reports from other jurisdictions, and, in particular, those of the Commonwealth countries, is severely lacking.4

Regional law schools like other Institutions of Higher Learning in Africa are faced with a number of challenges in their endeavour to offer quality and up-to-date education, these include; inadequate educational resources, a rigid and conservative education system and insufficiency of financial resources for expansion.

LawNet has undertaken to harness the power of ICT in fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of law to achieve dramatic improvements in critical, contemporary measures of performance, such as costs, quality, service, and speed. This is made possible by firstly, establishing the East African Internet Legal Resource Centre and secondly, establishing dedicated digital law libraries throughout the region.
It is our belief that this will go a long way in enhancing the quality of legal information, public awareness and public education and thus strengthening the knowledge base of our countries.

3. INTRODUCTION

The promise of ICT on the continent is enormous. It is expected to serve as a catalyst for growth for African institutions of higher learning.

3.1. LEGAL INFORMATICS AND LEGAL EDUCATION INTERFACE

African legal institutions of learning nonetheless have to confront these challenges by adopting innovative learning methods that will not only improve the efficacy of education delivery but also sufficiently equip legal professionals with the necessary skills to face the new challenges in the era of information based societies.

New technologies today, offer law schools an opportunity to benefit from and contribute to an increasingly globalised society. Through distance learning strategies and computer applications, one can expand the content, extend the reach, and increase the effectiveness of existing academic programmes. Effective computer-delivered coursework could be developed while at the same time improving access to scientific and technical information.

This form of education technology offers several advantages over the traditional educational system, including a) easy access to primary and secondary legal instruments; b)virtual access to faculty in higher institutions around the world; c) introduction of new interactive techniques such as more hands-on learning opportunities, independent research and less reliance on rote memorization; and d) the creation of virtual institutions and linkages where resources could be shared by people and organizations in physically unconnected places.5

3.2. LEGAL INFORMATICS AND LEGAL PRACTICE INTERFACE

The legal industry is no exception. Lawyers increasingly use e-mail to communicate with their colleagues and clients. Major litigation and due diligence investigations depend upon sophisticated database and imaging technology. Powerful online based knowledgebases enhance research. Firms are implementing increasingly sophisticated practice management systems. And of course, no firm would be without word processing and spreadsheet software.

In focusing these predictions specifically on the legal profession, Professor Susskind argues that: 'The genie, as they say, is out of the bottle; it is time now for lawyers to plan their future on the assumption that IT is here to stay and most will not be able to avoid its impact'.6

ICT impact on the legal practitioners cannot be over emphasised. Advocates, Magistrates, Judges, Legal Consultants, Policy Makers and other practitioners have inevitably bound to utilise IT to manage and effectively source for material. It could be usage of e-mail services, online research, editing legal texts, sourcing for materials on CD-ROM and much more.

There are a range of technologies that are affecting legal practice. These include litigation support/court technologies and legal research systems. Knowledge-based systems can be developed by law firms either as internal tools used by lawyers to assist in the generation of advice to clients, or documents. Also of great importance to the legal profession and legal practice is the use of ICT in areas, like filing of legal documents of many types, privacy and security of email exchanges of documents, authentication and non-repudiation in transactions, and so on.

In the next decade, successful lawyers will no longer work in isolation or within the constraints of their firm. The internationalisation of business relationships and transactions has already meant that commercial lawyers can no longer merely specialise in one jurisdiction. This need to keep abreast of global developments in law can be achieved by international collaboration with the use of information technology.7

New technologies could be utilised in every area of a practice to increase its efficiency and improve service delivery. However, the greatest use of IT by lawyers to date has been to facilitate legal research and systems that support the litigation process.

3.3. LEGAL INFORMATICS AND LEGAL REFORM INTERFACE

Legal reform is driven towards meeting the needs of society. It is supposed to reflect the changing ideals in society. ICT offers an opportunity for people to know what the law is before giving any opinions or suggesting any reform. An informed population is more likely to make better choices regarding the legal order.

Important to mention is the exact input legal scholars can make in the development of an African Jurisprudence. Through ICT, one can initiate jurisprudential discussions that we facilitate the development of a legal system and a legal philosophy that reflects on the values and customs of the people.

People also have political rights to participate in an agency decision-making process. Legal information services should provide the opportunity for people to monitor the government's activities and to make their voice heard when they do not agree with the government*s policies. Once citizens know how an agency is interpreting and applying the law, it will be easier for them to identify inconsistencies or flaws in the agency's decision making process. Another idea which support people having political rights by owning more information was stated by President James Madison in 1822 that 'knowledge will forever govern ignorance: and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge give'.

3.4. LEGAL INFORMATICS AND GOVERNANCE INTERFACE

ICT offers developing countries a chance to educate a major part of their population that remains ignorant of their basic rights and duties due to inaccessibility of legal information. Sometimes even the law making organs of the society are sufficiently informed of developments elsewhere, and the true ideals of a democratic society. It is unquestionable that a legally empowered people are better placed to seek for better governance and legal reform when necessary.

The rapid advances in IT have put pressure on governments to react and respond more quickly than has ever been required in the past. Global information networks are being constructed by a variety of interconnected technologies and continue to become more sophisticated. As a consequence business and the public are demanding better government service delivery through a variety of access points including kiosks, television, PCs and telephones. Technology provides the basis for electronic service delivery whereby the citizen can use an electronic access point to access any service provided by any level of government without requiring a detailed knowledge of the tiers of government.8

3.5. LEGAL INFORMATICS AND LEGAL AWARENESS INTERFACE

The establishment of a legal information centre providing online civic education programmes cutting across most important areas of public and private law promises to offer a tool for life long legal awareness among the citizenry. Our resource page will highlight constitutional law, Human Rights Law, Civil Litigation, Criminal Law, Legal Aid, Law of Contract, Law of Torts and Other areas that affect the day to day life of the people. In addition to providing online materials, LawNet will provide the same in other electronic formats to reach the widest population.

At the same time, free online access to primary legal materials will result in pressure on governments to simplify the law. Access to the law by non-legally trained citizens will only highlight the complexity and elitism of the legal system and will increase the need for law to be more generally understood. Information technology can provide the catalyst for the emergence of quite a different kind of legal service.

Under Democratic Theory, people grant their consent by electing their representatives who will exercise legal power by making laws which function for the well-being of society. Thus, it is the citizens' right to know what laws the government has imposed on their rights and obligations in order to conduct themselves correctly under the law. ICT also offers an opportunity for interactive legal education where a person can send a query and a team of legal scholars or practitioners can guide the person so asking. This though does not amount to legal advice, but it will go along way in for of legal aid to those who cannot access legal advice.

3.6. LEGAL INFORMATICS AND JUSTICE SYSTEM INTERFACE

Information technology offers numerous solutions in relation to management support and coordination of a large cumbersome structure of the judicial system. At the same time contemporary society is steadily becoming accustomed to the high quality of services that technology can help deliver. With increases in the public use of technology and with the rapid development of new technologies, it is inevitable that the public will expect the justice system to deliver accessible, cheaper and efficient services. However, the ways in which technology is employed and the rate and method in which it is rolled out appears to be important to achieving the potential benefits.9

Courts can use information technology to:


(1) Communicate information to the public;
(2) Provide legal and procedural advice; and
(3) Facilitate the conduct of cases. 10


Courts need to collaborate with government and the legal profession to develop innovative solutions by utilising new technologies to provide information, advice and access to the legal system. LawNet believes that the Government should coordinate the delivery of simplified legal information through the infrastructure already in place. The Government should coordinate online legal guides and provide information and ultimately access to courts and tribunals. The courts and tribunals should not only utilise technology to facilitate the conduct of cases, but also to provide as much information as possible to potential litigants, targeting the public rather than merely legal practitioners.

3.7. LEGAL INFORMATICS AND ACCESS TO LEGAL SERVICES

The majority of the population has found the legal system to be totally inaccessible, owing to the costs, delays, complexity, specialised knowledge required and uncertainty associated within and by the system. The government, courts and tribunals, and the legal profession share the responsibility to ensure that legal services are delivered in an accessible manner. Over the last decade, there have been many reports and studies conducted into access to justice.

The changes facilitated by IT can potentially change the relationship between the public and legal institutions. Information technology offers the opportunity to transform the legal system so that the average citizen can deal with it with confidence. The effective use of IT could mean that everyday legal concerns, which are not currently met because of the cost of lawyers and lack of information, could be easily catered for. Furthermore, a central aspect of access to justice is access to legal information. If citizens have access to accurate and simple legal information their options potentially expand, thereby relieving some of the pressure on the system.

4. LAWNET INITIATIVE

LawNet is a Non-Profit Making Organisation; it is incorporated in Kenya as a Company Limited by Guarantee. It is an initiative of a number of legal practitioners, technical staff and sponsors. It is an initiative of a number of legal practitioners, scholars, and technical staff from the East Africa region. LawNet is a regional portal for legal informatics with a wide network of partners, both local and international organisations and institutions.

4.1. OVERALL GOAL
Optimize digital information technologies in the distribution of legal information, the delivery of legal education, and the practice of law in the East African region.

4.2. VISION

To establish a digital legal resource centre which shall be ever-enlarging to become the internet World Wide Web regional source for accurate, instant, contemporary, and useful legal information for the legal fraternity and the general populace that meets the quality standards and ethics of the legal profession.

4.3. OBJECTIVES


1.Undertake computerisation of laws - primary and secondary legal materials.

2. To develop and maintain comprehensive databases of Case Law and Statutory Law applicable in East Africa and to publish these materials on the Internet, Local Intranet, Law School Servers and on CD-ROMS. (Internet access to case law shall be free).
3. Improve access to justice through better access to legal information.

4. To establish digital law libraries for use by the legal fraternity, policy makers, researchers and the general public.

5. To become the regional portal for law technology; to develop and acquire the latest legal technology.

6. To promote and advocate for the use of digital technologies in legal education and practice in the East African region.

7. To undertake policy development and research on the application of legal informatics in Legal Education, Legal Practice and in Government.

8. To enter into Partnerships and Collaboration with various Law Schools, Resource Centres, Government Departments, Civil Society, Professional Bodies, Institutions of Higher Learning, and IT Providers locally and internationally for purposes realizing the above objectives.

4.3.1. RECENT DEVELOPMENT IN EAST AFRICA

There have been remarkable developments in the state of legal publishing in East Africa since the commencement of the LawNet Initiative, and the first publication of this paper in 2001. There have been notable developments in the field of legal publishing: Firstly, the World Bank has financed a legal reform project in Kenya with the object of computerizing the Judiciary. This is seen as essential in putting in place the necessary infrastructure for efficiency in the administration of justice. Secondly, the Kenya Law Report Commission has initiated a pilot project to publish Law Reports that had remained unpublished since 1978. It is anticipated that by the end of 2004, the Law Reports for 2002 would have been published. And lastly, a regional publisher LawAfrica Ltd. has recently published up-to-date print and CDROM formats of the East Africa Law Reports. The same are available at an equivalent of US $ 254 per pack. This is a landmark development especially in relation to the use of digital technologies to publish regional case law.

4.3.2. LAWNET MODEL

Reference is given to the Legal Information Institute (LII) and the Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII) who are competing centralist and distributed models. The critical differences between the two countries are differences of scale and history. America has a good many more jurisdictions and a baroque system of courts and legislatures, and has experienced almost total domination of law publishing by the private sector. Australia's legal and government communities are much smaller, and the private sector has not had a chokehold on publishing.11 As a result, two different visions of the public legal-information regime have arisen. AustLII acts as a kind of comprehensive, centralized, sophisticated service bureau for official bodies interested in publishing legal information, and enjoys close, quasi-official relationships with those whose information it publishes.12

The LawNet model is a combination of the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII), British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BaiLII) and an Online Legal Resource Provider e.g. FindLaw. It seeks to combine private and public input in the development of its resources. The model has been influenced highly by the nature of the task of content development, the scope and the general state of technology in the region. It is an optimal structure for participatory resource building and development as most stakeholders get a sense of ownership of the process, while retaining and independent and qualified management team.

As Thomas Bruce argues, the discussion that treats the question of public versus private responsibility for legal information publishing ends up recommending some form of coexistence.13 Neither public nor private means can by themselves answer every demand that exists for legal information. The debate is not really about whether public-sector information ought to exist to the exclusion of private services, or whether private-sector services can answer all public needs, but where the dividing line should be set between the two.

4.4. SCOPE OF ACTIVITIES

4.4.1. THE EAST AFRICAN LEGAL INFORMATION INSTITUTE (EALII)

EALII is a public TRUST developed in collaboration with various Organisations, Institutions and Sponsors. LawNet is the founding Trustee of the EALII. Our major partners include: The East Africa Law Society, Faculty of Law - University of Nairobi, Centre for Legal Education and Networks, Law Reform Commission, Attorney General's Offices, Australasian Legal Information Institute and the World Legal Information Institute.

The main object of the EALII is to undertake computerisation of primary and secondary legal materials covering the East African region and converting it into a consistent format with a generalised set of search and hypertext facilities. The data will be sourced from a number of sources; all legal text that is within public domain. Most of the databases will be based on published (print and electronic) and unpublished legal materials. We shall also rely upon direct and indirect feeds by relevant courts, government departments and other organisations.

The scope of computerisation of laws covers the conversion of all Statutory Law, Case Law, Policy Papers, Legal Publications, Legal education materials, Government Reports and other legal texts into electronic format for publication. The mediums for publications will range from CD-ROM, World Wide Web, Digital Libraries, Intra-Networks and Other Electronic Medias. LawNet will undertake to collaborate with the relevant Government Departments (AG Offices), Law Reporting Commissions, Law Schools, Civil Society and other Stakeholders in the development and realization of the objects of EALII.

The EALII is to be developed with the support of local and international partners in the field of electronic publishing. Important to note is the Australasian Legal Information Institute based in Australia upon which we intend to develop a prototype. Other models that we have consulted include: Canadian Legal Information Institute, British & Irish Legal Information Institute, UK Centre for Legal Education and the African Digital Libraries. EALII, at the point of its development will be hosted in Nairobi by LawNet and the University of Nairobi, Faculty of Law.

Regional Collaborating Institutions and Partners include: Law Schools, Attorney General's Offices, Government Departments, Professional Organisations, Law Societies, Law Reform Commissions, Civil Society Organisations, Business Community and various Sponsors.

5. The EALII ACTIVITIES

5.1. Computerization of Laws (Statutory Law and Case Law)

The scope of computerisation of laws covers the conversion all statutory law, case law, policy papers, legal publications, legal education materials, government reports and other legal texts into electronic format for publication. The mediums for publications will range from CD-ROM, World Wide Web, Digital Libraries, Intra-Networks and other electronic Medias. LawNet will undertake to consult with the relevant government departments (AG Offices), Law Reporting Commissions, Law Schools, Civil Society and other Stakeholders. The same will involve getting the necessary judicial certification that our materials are authoritative in courts.

5.1.1. Law Library

The electronic databases of legal materials will be published on the World Wide Web at our web portal http://www.ealii.org, Law School Intra-nets, CD-ROMs, Diskettes, and other such electronic mediums. The online presentation will form the first virtual law library in the East African region. The library will serve the needs of the legal fraternity, government departments, civil society, business community and the general populace, while meeting the quality standards and ethics of the legal profession. Law schools, legal scholars, legal practitioners, government, civil society, business community, law associations and libraries will form the backbone of EALII's sources of materials. Materials from commonwealth and other jurisdictions will also be referenced. We anticipate developing our coverage with the collaboration of various partners in the region to ultimately cover the whole of the sub-Saharan region.

5.1.2. Legal Information Centre

The underlying objective is to utilise ICT to improve access to legal information and thereby improve access to justice. This will entails developing user friendly guides to various legal subjects including: Constitutional law, Customary laws, Criminal law, Marriage and Succession laws, Local Government By-laws, Human Rights Laws, Business and Company Law, Children laws, Resettlement laws, Gender and law, Natural resources laws, Forestry laws, Property laws, Financial sector laws, Banking and capital market laws, Rural credit, Securities regulation, Collateral/security laws, Land reforms, Energy and mining laws, Contract laws, Property rights, Privatisation, Foreign investment laws, Education laws, Public health laws (including with respect to AIDS), Taxation, Customs laws, Pension laws, Securitization of assets, Post-conflict reconstruction, insolvency law, judicial and legal reform, child labour law, international environmental law and much more.

5.2. Student Resource Centre

Law Students from the region can benefit from databases of learning materials and other vital legal resources from this section. These includes: Specific Law Subject guides and cases, Online law lessons (also downloadable), Legal Articles, Sample Law questions, Course works, Dissertations, Guides to Legal Research, Legal scholarship and writing. This is not to mention the available primary and secondary legal materials. Students can also utilize this forum to exchange various legal ideas and information. The Law Student's section shall endeavour to promote and encourage interactive legal education and use of technology in the region.

5.3. Legal Technology Centre

LawNet aspires to be the regional portal for legal technology. This will involve developing customized legal software and establishing a regional gateway for various legal informatics developed throughout the world. Legal institutions and practitioners from all sectors in the region can benefit from our depository of legal technologies and working models. In realization of this objective, LawNet has undertaken to form partnerships and networks with a number of Institutions and Organisations for purposes of obtaining, and utilizing various technologies.

5.4. Research Centre

LawNet will undertake specialised legal research services for both the legal fraternity and the non-legal community. In this regard, we shall work with exceptional law students interested in legal research in an effort to afford them an opportunity in pioneering legal research.

5.5. Others Services

5.5.1. LEGAL REPORTING

This will serve as a news update on various regional legal issues. The scope will cover of reporting will cover; reports from the courts, legal commentaries, presses releases by government or legal institutions, notices, gazettes, parliamentary bills, legal watch dog, workshops on law and various international legal developments.

5.5.2. MINI-SITES FOR LAW & CIVIC ORGANISATIONS

Law firms can utilize this section to publish the firm's profiles. Regional Organisations can also contact us to develop an Online presence for their individual organisations. Our emphasis is on Law oriented organisations, charities or trusts.

This shall include developing sites for law student organisations, legal aid organisations, legal research organisations, legal awareness organisations and law institutes, general being bodies that fall within the bracket of the legal fraternity. Any returns from this service will go into subsidising the operational costs of LawNet.

5.5.3. QUESTION AND ANSWER

Our research team and a group of Law Students from the University of Nairobi, Faculty of Law run this forum as a form of legal aid and awareness programme. It is important to note that this is not legal advice and that its scope does not involve undertaking course work research for students.

5.5.4. LEGAL SUPPORT SERVICES

This section provides a guide to various Consultant Firms, Accounting & Auditing Firms, Auctioneers, Court Brokers, Court Reporters, Insurance Firms, Private Investigators, Debt Collectors, Court Process Servers and other professional firms. Companies offering the above services can obtain listing in our databases.

5.5.5. LAW BOOKSHOP

Through our Partnerships with various Legal Publishers and Book Sellers, site visitors and users can obtain various legal materials, legal journals, law books and other publications. You can make your purchases either directly by placing an order with the relevant provider or by placing an order with us (in case of foreign purchases).

5.5.6.OTHERS

Internet Legal Research Guide, Law Jobs, Law Discussions, Research Sponsorship, Courtroom Jokes, East Africa Law Societies, East Africa Parliament, COMESA, Parliamentary Bills, Gazette Notices, Human Rights guide and much more.

6. A CASE FOR DIGITAL LAW LIBRARIES

Currently, in the whole of East Africa, law libraries are limited to High Court libraries and Law School libraries which are still non-automated. We aspire to establish digital Law Libraries throughout the region containing our database of legal resources specifically for the legal fraternity. This is a long term project that is meant to benefit the legal practitioners. The services will be for a fee which will go into the maintenance and development of the resources.

7. PROJECT BENEFICIARIES

The unique nature of digital technologies, (more so the World Wide Web) is such that information published thereon is accessible anywhere and at anytime to users. Electronic materials are not only cheaper to process, reproduce and maintain; they can also support a variety of users at the same time. This offers an opportunity to benefit a broad range of users, our target beneficiaries in this case are; the legal fraternity, government departments, civil society, business community and general populace. We shall employ the widest forms of electronic media to reach the most of our target groups.

We anticipate a target of at least 500 online users and 1,000 Local Area Network users in each working day at the end of the year 2003. Our target users will span through the whole community, including educational institutions, the legal profession and business, community organisations, government, the commonwealth and other international users.

7.1. Legal Fraternity

The regional Legal Fraternity including; Office of the Attorney General, Advocates, Legal Enforcement Officers, Judicial Officers, Law Students, Lawyers, Legal Scholars and Other Legal Professionals.

These are:
Professional Organisations:



· East Africa Law Society (Kenya, Uganda & Tanzania)
· East Africa Magistrates and Judges Association (Kenya, Uganda & Tanzania).
· Kenya, Uganda & Tanzania Judiciaries.
· Other Commonwealth Legal Fraternities.
· Sectorial Professional Associations and Organisations.
Law Schools and Institutions:
· University of Nairobi, Faculty of Law
· Moi University, Faculty of Law
· Kenya School of Law
· University of Makerere, Faculty of Law
· Uganda Law Development Centre
· University of Dar-es-Salaam, Faculty of Law
· Tumaini University, Faculty of Law
· University of Zanzibar
· University of Malawi
· University of Makelele, Ethiopia
· Commonwealth Law Schools
· Other Institutions offering legal studies in the region.


7.2. Civil Society:

· Legal Resource Networks.
· National and Grassroots Civic Education Providers
· Legal Research and Education Providers
· Generally all Civil Society Organisations.

7.3. The General Populace:


· All the internet users both within and outside the region.
· Professionals from all fields.
· People seeking legal information and guidance.
· University and College Students.
· Regional Citizens abroad.
· General Users.

8. PROBLEMS AND CHALLENGES

8.1. Infrastructural Problems

1. In Sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, the telecommunication networks and infrastructure lag behind the rest of the world. This is partly attributed to insignificant public investment in ICT and telecommunications infrastructure in most African countries. For instance, Africa has only 2 percent of the world's telephone mainlines14 and the exploitation of internet-based resources is yet to be entrenched in African economies.

2. The general poor state of telecommunication and network infrastructure that inhibits the easy and cheap access to ICT.

3. Insufficient ICT infrastructure, shortage of workstations and insufficient hardware within law schools and legal institutions in the region.


8.2. Information Exchange

1. In many cases there are no appropriate information dissemination and exchange mechanisms. There is a lack mechanism for various institutions, organisations, governments and other stakeholders to share information resources.

2. Lawyers have traditionally prided themselves on knowledge that only they posses.15 The above comments are particularly relevant when looking at the storage and retrieval of documents in law firms, especially precedents.

3. There is reluctance on the part of institutions and other bodies to circulate information. Governments and NGOs hide information. Another related issue concerns the copyright laws, information control, and ownership.

4. NGOs lack capacity to compile and exchange information.

5. In many African countries locating a source of information that is needed is very difficult.

6. Communication does not happen in real time, there is a delay which is sometimes serious enough to render information irrelevant, incomplete or inconsistent.

7. Difficulties in obtaining materials still under copyright but out of print as publishers who control the material do not necessarily see the financial returns upon conversion and are therefore reluctant to provide the materials.

8. Inaccessibility of local legal texts due to non-publication and discriminative access to the same. Even in the case of already published legal texts about Africa, they are scattered in international databanks and western libraries whose access is difficult.

8.3. Cost and Funding of Projects

1. It is costly to produce information and exchange it.

2. There is reluctance by donors to fund information dissemination and exchange projects for local communities and their needs in Africa.

3. Projects designers often ignore the information exchange component at the planning stage. There is frequently no provision for continuous learning or exchange of information with facilitators or project managers, for example. Few projects have an integrated learning, visibility and replicability. Some NGO projects are very effective, but few people know about them.

4. Financial constraints in establishing sufficient institutional capacity, preparing databanks and meeting operational costs.

5. Lack of sufficient support from donor organisations to support the integration of ICT in Education; most donor organisations are focused in poverty alleviation programmes, human rights and AIDS, not investing in technology.

6. Difficulties in obtaining the latest software and hardware in administering and managing our virtual/digital library.

8.4. Legal Fraternity Rebellion

1. The traditional belief of lawyers in the written or printed word and the need to change this belief.

2. Fear of technology among law school staff and other legal practitioners who feel threatened by the effect by their ignorance of technology and its effects on their practice and job security.

3. Lack of corporate institutions like legal publishers in the region to support such nascent initiatives. In the whole of the East African region there is no professional legal publisher. Legal texts are either obtained from India, England, the United States or other international publishers.


9. STRATEGIES

9.1. Participatory Approach

To achieve its objectives and in carrying out its activities, LawNet will adopt a participatory approach. Participation is needed in order to gain ownership and commitment from the government and stakeholders; some of the stakeholders include different branches of government, Attorney General's Chambers, Law Schools, Professional Organisation i.e. Federation of Women Lawyers, Law Society of Kenya, Uganda Law Society, Tanzania Law Society and the umbrella body; the East Africa Law Society, Legal Scholars, Public Law Institute, Non-Governmental Organisations among other stakeholders.

To achieve its objectives and in carrying out its activities, LawNet will adopt a participatory approach. Participation is needed in order to gain ownership and commitment from stakeholders such as the Attorney General's Chambers, the Judiciary, Law Schools and Law Societies in East Africa. LawNet shall develop and maintain networks and partnership with these stakeholders. It will also establish links with various International Organizations and Law Schools from other continents.

To meet the challenge of slowly but affirmatively integrating technology in legal education and practice, we plan to undertake regular training for Law Lecturers, Judicial Officers, Advocates, Law Librarians, Law Students and other Legal Practitioners within and outside our offices. Incentives for getting such training should be fronted by the development of our virtual law library, digital law library, electronic legal resources and increased access to the same.

9.2. Fund Raising Strategy

LawNet resources will be freely accessible Online; this service will not be funded by usage charges or advertisements. Funding will be expected from 'stakeholders', a wide range of organisations that have an interest in facilitating access to legal information of particular types. By broadening its range of stakeholders as far as possible, LawNet aims to lighten the burden on any particular organisation of funding access to legal information.

9.3. Institutional Collaboration

One of the greatest challenges facing the digital resource community is the development of effective strategies for collaboration among librarians, information technologists, instructional technologists and faculty to address new teaching and learning opportunities opened up by the networked digital medium. This calls for new organizational arrangements for service and support delivery. Many of our member organizations are also struggling with questions of how to create or renovate physical spaces to house these activities, and more broadly how to design spaces to support changing practices of scholarship in a digital world.

9.4. Working Together

A fundamental goal of LawNet is to foster dialog and collaboration among information professionals from all disciplinary backgrounds. The structure is to help groups of professionals improve their ability to collaborate and build partnerships with colleagues, particularly on projects related to law and networked information resources.

9.5. Maximum Outreach

LawNet endeavours to take advantage of the electronic mailing facilities (e-mail) whose usage has undergone tremendous growth in the last few years to register the maximum number of our target audience in our mailing database for regular correspondence. This service is absolutely free to Law Firms, Judges, Organizations, Civil Society, Legal Scholars, Companies, Students and other Interested Users.

10. CONCLUSION

Electronic information resources will play an increasing role in legal education in terms of both teaching and research. Therefore law students, legal academics and practitioners must, as a matter of urgency obtain the necessary ICT skills to navigate, retrieve and utilise these resources. An Online legal resource centre will therefore offer law students and legal scholars an opportunity to harness developments in ICT to revitalize legal education and practice. It is imperative that they embrace this technology if they have to remain competitive in the new global order.

Skills associated with new technology are of such importance that proficiency in this field must now be viewed as an integral element in the education and skills development for all law students. In addition, proficiency should also be viewed as transferable "life skills" which enable law students opportunity to participate more effectively in the legal education system. Proficiency in ICT equips law students with the skills in a technology they will encounter in their future careers and for life.

'...[I]f the legal profession is to meet the threat to its traditional markets posed by these other sectors, it must itself be educated and trained in the wider applications of technology for the purposes of knowledge manipulation, practice management and quality control of services, and product analysis and development'.16

Notes and References

International Development Program of the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) Report on Use of IT in East Africa Bar. <http://www.cba.org/IDP/Programs/EastAfrica.asp>

Paliwala A, "Access to Legal Information - A welcome return?" , 2000 (1) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). Online at< http://www.law.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/00-1/paliwala.html>

R Susskind, The Future of Law: Facing the Challenges of Information Technology, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1998
Thomas Bruce: Thomas R. Bruce: Some Thoughts on the Constitution of Public Legal Information Providers <http://www4.law.cornell.edu/working-papers/open/bruce/warwick.html>

1 Human Development Report 2001, available at< www.undp.org.mk/nhdr/nhdr2001/nhdr2001.pdf>.

2 M Hammer and J Champy, Reeingineering the Corporation - A Manifesto for Business Revolution, Hutchinson, London, 1989. See also, M Hammer, 'Reengineering Work: Dont Automate, Obliterate', (1990) 68 Harvard Business Review 104.

3 Supra 1.

4 Canadian Bar Association Report on the State of legal reporting and access to judicial precedence by East African Lawyers. <http://www.cba.org>

5 Osei Darkwa and Fikile Mazibu, Creating Virtual Learning Communities: Challenges and Prospects for Africa, <http://www.firstmonday.dk/issues/issue5_5/darkwa/index.html> (Accessed in March, 2000).

6 R Susskind, The Future of Law: Facing the Challenges of Information Technology, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1998, p. xlv.

7 See also, Hardy, 'Electronic Conferences: The Report of an Experiment' (1993) 6 Harvard Journal of Law and Technology 213.

8 Parliament of Victoria, law reform committee report on: Technology and the law, available at <http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/lawreform/tech/default.htm >.

9 ibid.

10 S Parker, Courts and the Public, AIJA, 1998, p. 72.

11 Thomas Bruce: Thomas R. Bruce: Some Thoughts on the Constitution of Public Legal Information Providers,
<http://www4.law.cornell.edu/working-papers/open/bruce/warwick.html>.

12 Having seen the LII characterized many times in print in ways that conspicuously fail to capture all of its phases and aspects I am suspicious of my own ability to characterize another, equally complex operation. The notions put forward here are gleaned from the examination of materials at the AustLII site ( http://www.austlii.edu.au/austlii/ ) and those published by AustLII principals in various venues over the years, including The AustLII Papers (online at <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/LegInfo/97_2gree/contents.htm> ) and the AustLII technical roadmap, most recently published at <http://www.law.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/00-1/austin.html >.
13 See Thomas Bruce, supra 11.

14 Poverty in an Age of Globalization. World Bank 2000.

15 J Sussman, Minutes of Evidence, 22 Feb. 1999, p. 272.

16 Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Education and Legal Conduct's; The Second BILETA Report on Information Technology and Legal Education, ava.

 

JILT logo and link to JILT home page