Discover the Latest Innovations and Lessons Learned in Rule of Law and Legal Empowerment Projects
When we first heard about smartphone apps of constitutions, it’s fair to say that we were a little skeptical. Who would use their precious data allowance to download an app that made it easier to search through a dry legal document? Well, in the case of Nigeria the answer is ‘more than half a million people so far’. The fact remains that in many African countries, constitutions – the basic legal underpinning of a state – are difficult to access, let alone understand. In societies where mobile is king, a mobile-compatible version of a constitution is an incredibly powerful tool for lawyers, law students, activists and the general public.
In Nigeria, during the two or three days when the Occupy Nigeria protests of January 2012 were at their height, the app was downloaded 40,000 times – a remarkable rate of downloads that actually caused the servers to crash. I don’t know of any European democracy app that has been downloaded so much. Surprising as it may seem, the nimble Nigerian Constitution App – created on a shoestring budget – ranks among the most popular democracy apps anywhere in the world.
[The phone app in Nigeria allows you to search the constitution, post questions and discuss issues in a Constitution Forum; share sections of the constitution on Facebook; and provides access to a directory of lawyers.]
Indigo Trust is providing a grant of £5,000 to Yougora Ltd. towards the development of an Android app for the Ghanaian constitution. The 233 Law project – of which the constitution app is a part – has been up and running for a while now and a basic version of the app is already available. This funding will cover staff and technical costs, while approximately half will be spent on promoting the app. As well as providing access to the Ghanaian constitution, the app will also include several key pieces of legislation. It will also incorporate a Q and A section, whereby members of the public can submit questions to be answered by lawyers from Legal Aid Ghana.