Who can benefit from this study?
Civic Tech initiatives
Organisation responsible for case study:
Enabling access to law and justice for thousands in Uganda
Main Project Location: Uganda
Project country/countries: Uganda
Project dates: –
Last updated: 23 Mar 2022
Brief overview of the Case Study
BarefootLaw provides the public with free legal information and assistance using innovative approaches. BarefootLaw has embraced the use of technology and innovation in addition to traditional methods to bring knowledge of the law and human rights to communities and small businesses. BarefootLaw leverages a digital platform comprised of multiple channels- from Facebook, and SMS to Skype and a call centre complemented by free community-based legal outreach, to ensure that every Ugandan knows their rights under the law and understands how to access legal services.
The challenge or problem
There are approximately 4901 qualified advocates for over 40 million Ugandans, making access to legal assistance difficult thus unresolved disputes or resolution through crude methods like mob justice.
There is an extraordinary imbalance in access to justice and law in Uganda: the majority lawyers are based in the capital city of Kampala, while majority of the population live in rural areas. Moreover, awareness of legal information is low and the price for even basic legal services is high, beyond the reach of most Ugandans.
The solution that was implemented
BarefootLaw provides the public with free legal information and assistance using innovative approaches complemented by traditional methods. BarefootLaw leverages a digital platform comprised of multiple channels- from Facebook, and SMS to Skype and a call centre complemented by free community-based legal outreach.
BarefootLaw assets that the reason they use technology is the fact that Uganda has experienced a rapid intake of technology with over 60% of the population owning personal mobile phones, and internet connectivity country wide.
Barefootlaw believes in a world where everyone readily has access to the law and justice.
What results were achieved?
In August 2012, while Gerald was still a Law student, he came across the first case that indicated to him that many citizens were ignorant of the Law. This inspired him to begin sharing what he was learning as a student of the Law, and as a young person, he used already available platforms, his Facebook page and SMS. The response on Facebook was overwhelming. This created a need to create a more sustainable way of sharing this knowledge. This led to the formation a team of like-minded individuals who combined skills and resources to build this dream. BarefootLaw was incorporated on 15th March 2013.
Later that year, BarefootLaw won the Social Media Awards 2013 and award recognising individuals and organisations that use social media to benefit others in the community. This was the confirmation about the need for this service.
In March 2014, BarefootLaw was mentioned in a report by the World Wide Web Website as an example of the ways in which societies are benefitting from the Internet.
In May 2014, BarefootLaw won multiple awards at the Uganda Communications Commission’s ACIA Awards. The multiple Awards included Best Exhibitor Digital Content, ACIA Awards, the Judges Choice Award.
Lessons and recommendations
There is a massive backlog in the Ugandan just system, over 60% of the prison population is awaiting trial.
There are few lawyers to provide pro-bono legal services in the country.
There is a huge challenge of corruption and bribery in the judiciary system.
Gerald Abila, founder of BarefootLaw believes that access to law and justice are the fundamental building blocks of a just, equitable and thriving society in which human rights are respected; and that technology has a significant role to play in building a society where people are aware of their human rights, duties, and obligations.
‘‘I was always a leader of one kind or the other from my primary school right up to my University days, where I took part in Student Politics,’’ Gerald narrates. ‘‘The first time I learnt of a different side of leadership was when I started BarefootLaw and learnt that there are other sides to leadership over and above political leadership. A turning point for me in this journey was when I won the Young Achiever Awards for Leadership and Social enterprise in 2013. This is given to Ugandans under 30 doing great work.’’
BarefootLaw believes that the right amount of legal information added to technology and innovation will equal to universal access to justice.
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