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A contemporary interface: Intersecting law and technology in Kenya

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Intersecting law and technology in Kenya Intersecting law and technology in Kenya

In 1985, A.V. Dicey expounded on the rule of law as an essential component of constitutionalism. In Kenya, the rules of law and justice are enshrined as national values in its constitution. Nonetheless, hindsight is 20/20; using traditional analogy tactics is insufficient to combat poverty and boost prosperity. Undoubtedly, technology can transform Kenya in its pursuit of social justice and the rule of law. Goodbye, analog systems! Welcome, digitalism! 

Women and marginalized groups in Kenya would immensely benefit from technological initiatives. They have been historically disenfranchised, resulting in the rule of men and widespread injustice. Continuous marginalization has led to a surge in poverty rates amongst these groups. However, with the dawn of technology, supported by law, their predicament can change. Kenya is facing challenges pertaining to transparency and accountability in the public sector, with public funds being misappropriated. The United Nations has stressed the importance of the rule of law as an essential element in addressing and preventing corruption. 

The technological initiative I propose involves developing and implementing a mobile application to track government projects in Kenya. Mobile applications have revolutionized every sphere of our lives and are the most appropriate electronic innovation in Kenya because of the laudable internet and mobile connectivity rates in the country. I am strongly convicted that if fused with the law, this mobile application will improve service delivery and governance in Kenya. 

I propose implementing a mobile application named Uwazi. Uwazi is a Swahili word that denotes accountability and transparency. Uwazi would be facilitated and run by the national and county government. The government would detail their plan of action, projected milestones, the activity or project targets, timeline, expenditure, and project phases. Therefore, government projects would be more transparent to citizens. 

A matrix for public participation is essential. Citizens views should be solicited in order to roll put projects that are relevant to improve the lives of Kenyans. Uwazi would enhance public participation mechanisms in Kenya. Additionally, a public matrix to monitor these projects is key. The public would monitor projects implemented by the government using milestones. If there is any reason for delaying a project; it could be outlined in advance and other alternatives could be explored. Hence, citizens will be cognizant of and could participate in community-based projects, through the provision of comments, thus empowering them. 

In the long run, Uwazi could utilize mobile visual search technology, where one simply takes a picture of a project then the app uses image recognition to inform the user of the details of the project, eliminating the need for typing. Additionally, embracing drone technology can aid in observing government projects. This will facilitate all citizens and stakeholders to monitor progress and project completion. 

Reporting mechanisms would be incorporated into Uwazi in order to pinpoint malpractices in government projects. Corruption for instance could be reduced with the help of a database that would communicate with relevant authorities such as the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and Police. This will foster law enforcement as these bodies will obtain complaints of corruption in real time. Whistleblowers will have their privacy and safety guaranteed, as they will remain anonymous.  

What happens to those with no access to internet? Particularly, marginalized communities and women are less likely to have access to the internet. According to the Communications Authority of Kenya, 42% of people from the North Eastern Region and 69% of women have access to constant and consistent access to the internet. Uwazi could also operate through an Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) code to enable users to access services available on Uwazi mobile application without requiring internet access or a smartphone. USSD codes can be used with any type of phone, as a user could enter a short code on his/her phone followed by dialing that number. USSD operates in a menu-based information format where options can be selected through inputting numerals. 

Regarding women, Kenya has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Accordingly, the country has an obligation to ensure that women participate in the elaboration and implementation of development and planning at all levels. The development and implementation of Uwazi would be a step towards realizing Kenya’s international obligation. 

Women and marginalized communities must have a seat at the table. Mobile applications are well-positioned for digital inclusion, as they reduce poverty by fighting corruption and ensuring government accountability. Uwazi will realize the World Bank’s twin goals of eradicating poverty and boosting prosperity. Intertwining law and technology is key to a prosperous and just world! 

Rachel Kathini Mwendwa is one of several winners of the Law, Justice and Development (LJD) Week Law Student Contest for Development Solutions, which fosters innovation, produces legal solutions to development challenges, and provides a venue for young law school students to contribute to meaningful discussions around legal and development topics.


Rachel Kathini Mwendwa

Student at Nairobi University

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