By Robert Okello, Europe Lead BarefootLaw
“When we started BarefootLaw they called us crazy and mad. 10 years later, they are all crazy and mad” Gerald Abila, ED BarefootLaw on legal technology.
In the ever-evolving intersection of law and technology, BarefootLaw is constantly striving to develop innovative legal support models. The dedication remains firm in delivering accessible legal information and assistance to grassroots communities throughout Africa.
On the 10th of October 2023, at the prestigious The Hague Humanity Hub, BarefootLaw celebrated its 10th anniversary under the theme “Failing Forward: Building Resilience through Innovation.” The event, which brought together practitioners, academicians, students and legal innovators within the peace and Justice ecosystems in The Hague, turned out to be a day of reflection, collaboration, and exploration on how to achieve a more inclusive future for legal technology. The celebration offered an opportunity to deliberate how technology can accelerate access to justice and how legal innovators can position themselves in fast-paced technological development.
The key event Highlights.
The celebration kicked off with a short film on the inspiring journey of BarefootLaw – showcasing the approaches and how grassroots communities are using BarefootLaws’ digital systems to access legal support. This was followed by a captivating keynote address by Gerald Abila on the journey of BarefootLaw. During his speech, he highlighted the disparities in development funding and emphasized the necessity of eliminating obstacles that hinder the scaling and expansion of innovative initiatives from the global South. Additionally, he pointed out the challenges faced by Barefootlaw in the early stages and encouraged legal innovators to be more agile, adaptable, and resilient in the face of adversity.
“Being an innovator is like being born with two left feet, in capitate and then thrown into a snake-infested mine-fields and told to dance the tango with angels but sometimes the demons, while smiling and singing to them praises, with the hope that someday, we will succeed. If we do succeed, they call us resilience, but if we fail, they call it statistics” Gerald Abila E.D., BarefootLaw.
The program then flowed into a moderated panel discussion on the topic “Failing Forward: Building Resilience through Innovation.” The discussion brought together legal innovation and social impact investment experts, including Lisa Jordan, Managing Director of DRK, Kanan Dhru, Senior lecturer on Technology and Law at Hague University of Applied Sciences and Gerald Abila.
The panel delved into the financing of legal innovation and the impact of technology and deliberated on exemplary methods and approaches. Lisa underscored the pressing demand to raise more funding for the rule of law and access to justice by philanthropists and impact investors. She further mentioned that most impact investors are seeking innovations that come with innovative methodologies, scalable frameworks, and a demonstrated track record of sustainability.
On the impact of technology, Kanan offered valuable perspectives on how technology can establish an equitable opportunity framework for individuals geographically distant from the focal points of justice by enhancing accessibility, streamlining processes, and optimizing the functionality of legal systems. However, she also expressed concerns regarding the imperative of bridging the digital divide to guarantee that individuals in remote, disconnected areas remain integrated within the justice system.
Gerald suggested that in order to create tools tailored to local communities, there is a need to increase investments in local solutions. This involves removing hindrances that impede transnational innovations and recognizing grassroots legal innovators dedicated to addressing these challenges. He wrapped up his remarks by calling upon the peace and justice community to work towards ensuring that the law becomes ubiquitous and easily accessible to all.
The event proved incredibly inspiring and informative, underscoring the pivotal role technology can play in securing equitable access to justice for all. BarefootLaw remains steadfastly committed to democratizing access to justice, with the aim of fostering an improved future for justice accessibility in communities across the globe that are in greatest need.
The event was concluded by an electrifying performance by the children’s choir of the Watoto Church from Uganda. We look back at a very successful event and send special thanks to all our friends, partners and well-wishers who joined us for the celebration.