Law and technology don’t usually serve up your regular cocktail, especially when there’s a hint of constitutional legalese in the mix. This doesn’t mean that tech can’t be used for demystifying anything in this domain though. In fact, it’s already being done, even locally.
Yesterday we attended the official launch of The Declaration Of Rights App. The Declaration Of Rights; usually that phrase conjures up an 18th Century North American document, or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights championed by the United Nations, but Zimbabwe’s new constitution (it’s no longer new, actually) like every other national constitution, also seeks to uphold the rights of every Zimbabwean.
All citizens should know their rights, and a lot of effort has been putting the Constitution into every Zimbabwean’s reach. There’s even an app for that. What doesn’t happen though, is the communication of this information, particularly all the rights that every Zimbabwean citizen holds in a simple and easy way to understand.
Which is why the Centre for Applied Legal Research(CALR) a local legal research institution put some work into the development of an app that simplifies all constitutional rights held by Zimbabweans.
Through a partnership with the Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) and some support from the Embassy of Netherlands and Hivos, simplified text related to Zimbabweans’ human rights was packaged into the Android App. The lawyers didn’t crunch through hours of code though, they got help from some developers from Zambia’s Bongohive Hub.
The app is a very simple tool (no fancy features, with basic stripped down functionality) with the language used being fairly easy to understand.I didn’t feel like I needed a couple of years in law school to understand what my rights were as a human being or what appealing to the constitutional court involves.
The biggest shortcoming though is the fact that it’s only in English, something that representatives from CALR said they were already working on with the introduction of local language options in the short term. Other future iterations will include versions for iOS and a solution for feature phones.
Options for the use of SMS as a communication tool for Zimbabweans without internet-enabled devices have already been explored, and yesterday representatives from CALR spoke of how they had been using this channel already. At the launch, there was mention of using social media extensively for added information related to content on human rights, something that is supposed to dovetail into the social media extensions that have been added to the app.
While all of this is happening in the background, the CALR asked for feedback on the app and they have opened up for suggestions from developers and people working in digital media on how to broaden the reach of their message.