John Jeffery speaking at the HiiL challenge

The OPEN Maboneng venue was abuzz with a wonderful collection of people, business and non-profit organisations who have made it their passion to ensure that people of all societies have access to their legal rights in Southern Africa.

The Hiil Innovating Justice Challenge Boostcamp function had the 7 finalists from Zimbabwe and South Africa (selected from more than 600 applications) pitch to the audience and the judges for the R75 000 reward and then enter the HiiL Justice Accelerator's acceleration track.

Sadly, for the other 6 contenders for the top spot, there can be only one winner – this year RoadRules from Zimbabwe took the top honours with their mobile app that educates, reports and shares traffic fine information to Zimbabwean road users. The fact that their traffic police by law take the cash on the spot, and the collection of the fines money is not monitored, this creates an opportunity for huge corruption. Basically, they are charging what they can get away with on the spot. This application lists the gazetted fine amounts and the explanation of each fine – this provides the person with the legal rights exactly where they need it. Well done.

Special mentions went to both Lady Liberty and Comic Contracts.

The keynote speaker was Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Hon. John Jeffery who gave the audience a run-down of the technology developments in the South African Justice system. For example the Integrated Justice System (IJS) which already has processed 5000 cases through the system.

He wrapped up saying that new applications (mostly mobile apps) from both government and the private sector need to focus on providing the public with easy access to their legal rights.

What was refreshing from this group was their excitement and enthusiasm to help the public with systems and services to give them access to their much-needed legal rights. Hats off to Hague Institute for Innovation of Law (HiiL) for opening the competition to institutions that don’t necessarily have a technology app or system, but that offer fantastic legal services to the public.

In the panel discussion titled “What does justice innovation look like to real people?”, one of the panelists, Erica Emdon, National Director, ProBono.org in an answer to the question “How do you think this access to legal rights will benefit the “real people” on the ground?” gave two examples of how the ProBono.Org service had got involved and helped two individuals, who had basically given up on the justice system – not only did these cases make a huge impression on the people seeking help, but also made an impression on the lawyers who were involved in offering their services to the ProBono.Org foundation. 

I also met a lawyer from the DRC, who is establishing a foundation in Johannesburg to enable him and his colleagues to be able to help their people back home by providing legal resources, as at the moment he said it was impossible for them to operate in his own country. There seem to be so many instances where people need lawyers or technology or both to give them a better life and most of this help is by providing time.

Over the next few weeks I will report on each of the finalists and share their story. 

I tip my hat to the HiiL foundation and to these brave people for doing what they can to improve the access to legal rights for the people of Southern Africa.

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