FrontlineSMS Legal Justice Via Cell Phone

FrontlineSMS: Legal combines customizable digital forms, case management software, and open source software to extend legal protections to those who cannot otherwise use them.


(FrontlineSMS: Legal)

A single mobile phone can be a very powerful way to connect people in hard to reach, often lawless, areas to the resources they need to resolve problems peacefully. mLegal is the application of mobile technologies to extend, improve, and modernize legal service delivery.

In many parts of the world, citizens struggle to access critical legal information and resources. There are a number of barriers that prevent citizens from engaging legal and dispute resolution systems, including physical distance, cost, and awareness, among others. In the absence of formal legal systems, disputants either rely on local structures or settle disagreements independently. A number of legal aid projects do incredible extension work, such as public defenders, law school clinics, and non-governmental organizations, though they typically lack the resources to provide comprehensive coverage.

As both technology, governance, and international development communities begin to turn their attention toward how mobile phones can be used to improve integral services, a number of terms have emerged to conceptually describe mobile legal systems, such as “telejustice,” and “mJustice.”

Want to know what's coming up in this area? Science fiction writers have woven a number of ideas about the use of software in the legal process. In his 1990 novel Earth, David Brin writes about lawyer programs:

Spivey held up one hand. "First I must tell you, Mr. Eng, that what we're about to discuss is highly classified. Top secret." Logan winced. "I want my lawyer program."

The officer smiled placatingly. "I assure you it's all legal..."
(Read more about Brin's lawyer program)

Fans of Greg Bear will enjoy his depiction of an AI "virtual counsel" named Max Detention:

"...we like to extend all due civil rights to our prisoners... so he's been assigned a VC - virtual counsel. We call our VC Max Detention..."

The virtual counsel appeared to be about forty-five years old and prosperous. His eyes had a discerning expression and he exuded reassurance and confidence. "My provisional client is facing charges relating to an assault on two FBI agents...

Read more at the FrontlineSMS: Legal website; via Textually.

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