Just: Transcription, a London-based start up social enterprise rejected by the Ministry of Justice for a contract for tech-based court judgement transcription because of its precarious finances as a newly formed organisation, has secured funding from a prestigious social tech foundation to develop its work. The story of Just:’s rejection by the Ministry is told by its director Rachael Mpashi-Marx at http://law-tech-a2j.org/odr/a-social-enterprise-a-ministry-of-justice-and-a-failed-attempt-at-innovation/.
Coming to the rescue with a further GBP25,000 to keep the business afloat is a grant from the Nominet Trust. Just: Transcription promotes an automated speech-to-text service. The impetus for its foundation came from the sometimes cripplingly high cost of private company transcriptions of court judgements in miscarriage of justice appeals.
Rachael Mpashi-Marx expressed the delight of the organisation at its grant: ‘It offers us opportunities on many fronts. Over the coming year, we will be working to refine our prototype and to roll out the beta version to test it in real life environments. We will use the time to reach out to others in the tech innovation space with whom we can work to achieve our access to justice goals. We will also capitalise on the platform this offers us to speak with influencers and policy-makers about the opportunities that are available to use technology, and the process of designing new systems, to create a more equal and effective justice system.’
The Nominet Trust receives funds from Nominet, the body which is the not for profit registry of .uk domain names. Since its foundation in 2008, it has received GBP44m or US$57m. This is its description of the attraction of the project:
Just: Transcription harnesses the latest advances in speech-to-text technology, combined with IBM Watson’s artificial intelligence expertise. It doesn’t just produce word-perfect transcriptions. By gathering and analysing data from each trial it can offer new insight into what’s happening in today’s courts, to aid transparency and inspire improvement.
Nominet Trust is funding Just: Transcription to help make the system ready to roll out in courts around the country. With the potential to erase the current problems with transcription, it has the power to promote a fairer justice system.
The award is not only money, this will come with technical assistance. Stephen Mwanza, CTO of Just: said, ‘Nominet Trust’s expertise will be invaluable to help guide us through this next challenging stage of development.’ Funding will also carry a degree of prestige which may be helpful in opening minds at the Ministry of Justice.’ Nominet Trust Director Vicki Hearn said, ‘Not many people realise just how difficult and expensive it can be to get a transcription of court proceedings. That’s why we’re funding this smart new voice-to-text technology which makes transcriptions affordable and accessible to vulnerable people and those currently at an economic disadvantage. The service also provides the kind of transparency that will drive improvements in the court system. We’re thrilled to support this project, which should help more people get justice.’
Initial funding for Just: Transcription came from the Legal Education Foundation. The boost from Nominet underlines the importance of the funding – and technical assistance – from foundations in this field where government funding is going to be hard to find. It makes all the more important the assistance which may be available from within the tech sector itself – see, for example, Microsoft’s support of the US Legal Services Corporation legal portal programme.