If all things go according to plan, by this time next year, legal aid services to the general public in Rwanda will be as easy as a few taps on one’s smartphone screen. All thanks to an ambitious project by MAJ, through which these services will be delivered to the Rwandese via a mobile application.
It has been observed that there is a massive number of people across Rwanda (the same can be said about most parts in Africa) where needlessly safer in situations that could be addressed amicably through the legal channels. That is because the way legal services have been traditionally delivered hinders most people from accessing it.
It would take a person time and money to travel for miles in search of lawyer services. That means it is only an option for those who can afford the time and travel expenses. So you find that most people in rural and impoverished backgrounds are automatically cut out from accessing legal services. Something that is quite saddening considering sometimes these legal services are available pro-bono or are catered for by the state.
MAJ, a French acronym for Access to Justice Offices at Rwandese districts where government-appointed lawyers are stationed to serve the general public who cannot afford private lawyers, has launched an app through which they can remotely reach out to the general public. As it works out, instead of someone traveling for miles and losing all that time, they can take out their phone, tap on the screen and get the legal advice more affordable and conveniently.
The app is a product spawn from the ‘Using ICT to Provide Legal Services to the Rwandan Population’ initiative. The initiative is backed by the Legal Aid Forum (LAF) and Viamo, a global expert in mobile engagement. The app and its system at the back-end leverages on the widespread use of mobile phones across Rwanda.
The rolling out of the app and its support system has been funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands, in a three-year project running up to 2021.
“We realized that people were spending a lot of time and money going to seek legal aid information, but with this system, people’s issues can be cleared on the phone anytime and from anywhere,” said Andrew Kananga, the Executive Director of LAF.
“Should their cases remain unsolved, the system leaves them a helpline for further assistance.”