There are fifty-five recognized states in Africa. Only one in Sub-Saharan Africa – Kenya, offers state-funded, comprehensive and open access to national legislation for free. Until a few years ago, the rest of the continent remained underserved, as meaningful access to legislation is either non-existent, or prohibitively expensive. It’s a problem that we at Indigo are familiar with, having recently funded the development of Constitute, which provides access to constitutions from around the world in a comprehensive, searchable and comparable format.
Poor records management by government, both analogue and digital, have exacerbated the task of building legislative collections in many African countries. Testament to the prohibitive nature of the difficulties and expense, is that fact that beyond a few key jurisdictions (South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique), international and local commercial publishers do not offer even paid access to legislation from many African countries.
Yet access to legislation is important for the functioning of the justice system in any country, and is an important factor in economic development and business investment nationally and regionally.
It’s for these reasons that we are delighted to announce a grant award of £36,300 to African Legal Information Institute (African LII) to develop an open source platform for the publication of legislation with an initial pilot in Zambia. The South African chapter of African LII, SAFLII, have been working with partners to publish South African legislation online in an accessible, user-friendly format. It contains both current and historic legislation and offers the easiest route to accessing individual acts and legislation for members of the public, judiciary, police and sundry other users. The funding that Indigo is providing will enable African LII to build on this experience to produce an open source platform for standard-compliant publication of legal information, provisionally named LII-in-a-Box, and based on the Drupal content management system. The aim is to allow anyone (our immediate target are Sub-Saharan countries) to quickly, easily and cost-effectively set up and run a LII.
KenyaLaw’s core funding is supplied by government, whilst the organization continues to source donor funding to conduct special projects.