Technology tactical and strategic in the service of access to justice

Technology’s role in access to justice makes a fertile topic for an academic conference. Certainly, that is the lesson from  ‘The Future of Law: Technology, Innovation and Access to Justice’ organised jointly by the Humboldt University of Berlin and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. The topic encourages a nice mixture of an international approach, a critical view of legal education and consideration of practical tech products that cuts across the often dry format of the usual academic conference.  We have just completed the first of two days: the knockout star of the day came at the end with the Berlin-based Tactical Technology Collective (TTC).

Before we got to the TTC, however, we moved through a wide range of speakers with different international experience. First up was Claudio Lucena df Brazil with a nice line on the demands on the current crop of academics. They are ‘analog professors in a digital world’. He started off a theme about how education had to respond to training requirements in the modern, fast-changing world. He was also imaginative enough to use menti.com as a way of measuring instant feedback from his audience. He was followed by Angelo Dube from South Africa on the way that twitter campaigns had first toppled the statue of Rhodes at th University of Capetown and then played a role in fee protests. Social media ran as another theme through the day with the suggestion that it could even be used to effect and prove service of legal documents.

There was also consideration of the Canadian Bar Association’s Legal Futures Initiative; Neots Logic’s involvement in training; and Freshfield’s approach to innovation (‘we look through the lens of process rather then tech.’) Among the presenters from the world of tech was Odun Longe from Nigeria who had co-founded DIYlaw which had received recognition from The Hague Institute for Innovation in Law and which provided subscription-based advice to businesses and, interestingly, had progressed by adding off-line services to its online offerings. She was interesting on how you can operate as a tech firm in a country where less than half the population have access to the internet and much fewer actually able and willing to use it. Apparently, many Nigerian businesses adapt online shopping to a combination of Instagram and WhatsApp. 

But the climax of the day was the TTC. Check out its website. The collective has used a range of imaginative ways to get across the message that net privacy is important. This has included the establishment of pop up shops looking like those of Apple which the technology and the large technology firms are chainring society. The most successful was apparently in London and 40,000 people saw the shop presentations and more in follow up work with schools and other institutions. The collective are shrewd communicators and have a range of ways of getting across the ways in which our privacy is being stolen. It’s 8 day data detox plan is a pretty good way of appreciating the issues and showing you what you can do about it. This asks ‘Do you feel your digital self is slipping out of control? Have you let yourself install too many apps, clicked “I agree” too many times.’ It then proceeds how if you don’t, you certainly should and proceeds to take you through a remedial programme. Unsurprisingly, the collective has found business booming for personal and business detoxs since the exposure of the data harvesting by such as Facebook and Google with such scandals as Cambridge Analytica.

The conference has a day to go and further postings will follow but already you can see the value of an intervention from the non-anglophone world and the real need for some form or some forms of international monitoring, collaboration and analysis as we move forward through a period of rapid change from which no jurisdiction will escape.

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