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The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.
- Henry VI, Pt. 2, Act 4, sc. 2.

This line, delivered by Dick the Butcher (turned revolutionary) in Shakespeare's Henry VI, is often performed tongue-in-cheek by actors to elicit an expected laugh from the audience. The essence of the line, however, is no joke, and relates to destabilizing the rule of law by removing its agents -- those who promote and enforce the law. What no one could predict, including Shakespeare himself, is the horrific precision with which such a deed could be carried out.

The 1994 Genocide in Rwanda showed this horror and more, with upwards of one million killed in the span of three months. The effect on the legal system was particularly devastating, with the targeting of lawyers and the justice sector, resulting in the targeted killing of prosecutors and judges at its outset.

Rwanda's Justice Sector Development
Since 1994, Rwanda has done a remarkable job rebuilding its society, establishing security, curbing corruption, and creating one of the fastest growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa.

Law Library at the Ministry of Justice, Kigali, Rwanda.

Law Library at the Ministry of Justice, Kigali, Rwanda.

One of the biggest areas of development in Rwanda, and in other areas of the world, has been strengthening justice sector institutions and strengthening the rule of law. In transitional states, especially those developing systems of democratic governance, the creation of online, reliable, and accessible legal information systems is a critical component of good governance. Rwanda's efforts and opportunities for development in this area are noted below.

From 2010-2011, I played a very small part of this development when I served as a law clerk and legal advisor to then-Chief Justice Aloysie Cyanzayire of the Supreme Court of Rwanda. Working with a USAID-funded project, I was also able to participate with legal education reform, and the development of an online database of laws, the Rwanda Legal Information Portal (RwandaLIP). In the summer of 2013 I returned to Rwanda, with the support of the American Association of Law Libraries, to visit its law libraries and understand the role of law libraries in legal institutions and overall society. After learning the Rwanda LIP was no longer updated (and now offline entirely), investigating Rwanda's online legal presence became a secondary research goal for the trip. The discovery also highlighted the importance of legal information systems and their role in justice sector reform. Part of this justice sector reform related to changes in Rwanda's legal system. Once a Belgian colony, at independence Rwanda inherited a civil law system, codified much of the Belgian civil code, and today the main body of laws comes from enactments of Parliament. Rwanda's judicial system, rebuilt after the 1994 Genocide, is made up of four levels of courts: District Courts, Provincial Courts, High Courts, and the Supreme Court.
With its civil law roots, courts in Rwanda were largely unconcerned with precedent. As Rwanda became a member of the East African Community in 2007 (and adopted English as an official language), the judiciary started a transition to a hybrid common law system, considering how to assign precedential value to court decisions. With this ongoing transition in Rwanda's legal system, an online legal information system has become a significant need for legal and civil society.

One of four computer labs, called the "digital library" at Kigali Independent University, with more than 400 computer workstations available for student use.

One of four computer labs, called the "digital library" at Kigali Independent University, with more than 400 computer workstations available for student use.

Online Legal Information Systems
In order to establish the rule of law in a democratic system, citizens must have access, at the very minimum, to laws of a government. To make this access meaningful, a searchable database of laws should be created to allow users of legal information to find laws based on their particular information need. For this reason alone it is important for governments in transitional states to make a commitment to developing online legal information systems.

John Palfrey aptly noted: "In most countries, primary legal information is broadly accessible in one format or another, but it is rarely made accessible online in a stable and reliable format." This is basically the case in Rwanda. Every law library, university library, and even the Kigali Public Library have paper copies of the Official Journal -- the official laws of Rwanda. Today, however, the only current place to find laws online is through the Prime Minister's webpage, where PDF copies of the Official Gazette are published. The website Amategeko.net (Kinyarwanda for "law") was frequently used by lawyers and members of the justice sector to search Rwanda's laws, and allowed the general public to not only access laws, but run a full text search for keywords. This site, however, was not updated after 2011, and is now completely offline. The result is no online source to search Rwanda's laws.

Law Library at the Parliament of the Republic of Rwanda in Kigali.

Law Library at the Parliament of the Republic of Rwanda in Kigali.

Rwanda is using its growing information infrastructure, however, to create other online quasi-legal information databases. For instance, the Rwanda Development Board created an online portal for businesses to access information on "investment related procedures" in Rwanda. The government is also allowing online registration of businesses, streamlining the processes and making it more accessible. These developments make sense with Rwanda's reforms in the area of economic development, and its recent ranking in the top 30% globally for ease of doing business, and 3rd best in sub-Saharan Africa. While economic reform has driven these changes, justice sector reform has not yet yielded the same results for online legal information systems.

Service counter at the University Library at Kigali Independent University in Rwanda.  Students aren't allowed to browse the library stacks.

Service counter at the University Library at Kigali Independent University in Rwanda. Students aren't allowed to browse the library stacks.

Rwanda's Legal Information Culture Despite the limited online access to laws, there is a high value placed on legal information in Rwanda. Every legal institution has a law library and a dedicated library staff member (although most don't have formal education in librarianship or information management). Moreover, members of the justice sector, from staff members to Permanent Secretaries and Ministers, believe libraries and access to legal information is of critical importance. A common theme in Rwanda's law libraries, however, is the lack of funding. Some libraries have not invested in library materials in years, and have solely relied on donations to add items to their collections. It is not altogether surprising, then, that the Rwanda LIP remained un-funded, and is now completely defunct as an online legal information system. One source close to the Rwanda LIP project indicated that funding has been sought at Parliament, but as of today has yet to be successful.

The failure of the Rwanda LIP is perhaps a victim of how it came to be; that is, through donor-funded development. Creating sustainable online databases requires a government commitment of financial support. Just as Amategeko.net before it, the Rwanda LIP was created through a donor-funded initiative, and at its conclusion the LIP's source of funding also ended. For any donor-funded development initiative, sustainability is a key concern, and significant government collaboration is necessary for initiatives to remain after donor-funded projects end. This concept is especially true with legal information systems, and is perhaps the cause for the Rwanda LIP's demise. While created in partnership with the Government of Rwanda, it failed to adequately secure a commitment for continued funding at its outset. Sustainability issues are not unique to Rwanda's experience with online legal information systems. The availability of financial resources is one of the key challenges to creating a sustainable online database of laws. Working with developing countries in Africa, SAFLII found that sustainability issues come from "shortages of resources, skills and technical services." While donor-funded projects have serious limitations, others experiencing the sustainability challenge have suggested databases supported by private enterprise, "offering free content as well as value-added services for sale." One thing for certain is that long-term sustainability remains one of the biggest challenges for online legal information systems.

View of the Kigali Public Library in Kigali, Rwanda.

View of the Kigali Public Library in Kigali, Rwanda.

Print to Digital Transition and Overcoming the Digital Divide In addition to sustainability, transition from print to digital poses its own complications, and has emerged as a major issue in law libraries, from even the most established institutions. This challenge is especially unique in the context of developing and transitional states, where access to the internet can pose a significant challenge. This problem, known as the "digital divide," has been described as something that "disproportionately disenfranchises certain segments of society and runs counter to the notion that inclusiveness and opportunity build strong communities and countries." This is an even larger problem in developing and transitional states, where there is far less wealth and technological infrastructure for internet connectivity, and a greater disparity in access between and among communities.

Of all countries in the process of developing online legal information systems, however, Rwanda is perhaps the best suited to succeed. With high-speed fibre-optic internet cables recently installed throughout the small East African country, Rwanda has one of the best internet penetration rates in the developing world. So, while Rwanda's law libraries (and other libraries) throughout the country have print copies of laws, there may be a legitimate opportunity to give a large number of citizens online access. For example, the Kigali Public Library, the flagship institution of the Rwanda Library Services, houses print copies of the laws of Rwanda but also has an internet cafe giving free access to online resources. Kigali Independent University has an "Internet Library" with more than 500 computers for student use. Rwanda's law libraries are also open and accessible to the public, some of which have computers for use by the public as well. Other libraries, including the law library at the National University of Rwanda, have increasing access to online resources to serve their users.

In Rwanda, a new access to information law (Official Gazette No. 10 of 11.03.2013) makes online legal information even more critical in the developing state, and Rwanda's current efforts can serve as an example for the importance of modernizing online legal information. The access to information law imposes a positive obligation on the Government of Rwanda, and some private companies working under government contracts, to disclose a broad range of information to the public and press. It has been stated that the law "meets standards of best practice in terms of scope and application" for freedom of information laws. Despite the law's conditions to withhold information under Article 4, the significant shift in policy and the law's broad range of information available are very positive signs. This and similar laws across the developing world have created a need for the improvement of existing legal information systems, or the creation of new systems to adequately make available essential legal information. A critical component to the implementation of this law, therefore, is a reliable and sustainable online legal information system.

A view of the volcanoes in the Northern Province of Rwanda.

A view of the volcanoes in the Northern Province of Rwanda.

Lessons Learned from Rwanda's Experience
While Amategeko.net and the Rwanda LIP are no longer online, institutions within the justice sector of Rwanda are currently working on solutions. In the meantime, there is no meaningful way to search Rwanda's laws online. It is possible that a stronger financial commitment at the outset of the Rwanda LIP would have solved this. In the future, long-term sustainability should be one of the primary qualifications for creating an online system.

In the meantime, there are other ways of expanding Rwanda's access to online legal information through databases of foreign law and secondary sources. Talking with law librarians in Rwanda, I learned that there is little, if any research instruction being delivered from law libraries. Even in the few libraries with subscription electronic databases, users aren't necessarily being directed to relevant legal resources. Furthermore, law librarians generally collect, catalog and retrieve legal materials for users, rather than directing users to relevant sources. Users of legal information in Rwanda (and elsewhere) would be well served by being exposed to other online sources of legal information. Sites like the LII, WorldLII, and the Directory of Open Access Journals offers access to a wealth of free online primary and secondary materials that could be useful to researchers. Creating research guides and offering research instruction in these areas costs very little, and opens up countless resources that could be valuable to users of legal information in Rwanda, and elsewhere. Those working in justice sector development should investigate the possibility for this, in conjunction with creating online legal information systems of domestic laws.

Directional sign outside the Law Faculty at the Independent Institute of Lay Adventist of Kigali.

Directional sign outside the Law Faculty at the Independent Institute of Lay Adventist of Kigali.

Finally, the majority of those working as librarians in Rwanda's law libraries have no formal instruction in library or information science. Nonetheless, it is remarkable that those with little or no formal training are competent librarians. Formal training or not, qualified librarians generally do not have the opportunity to offer research training to users of legal information. Treating law librarians as professionals would open up many opportunities to increase the capacity of users of legal information, and the online resources available.

 

IMG_1857Brian Anderson is a Reference Librarian and Assistant Professor at the Taggart Law Library at Ohio Northern University. His research involves the use of law libraries and legal information systems to support the rule of law in developing and transitional states. In September 2013 Brian presented two papers at the 2013 Law Via the Internet conference related to this topic; one related to civil society organizations and the use of the internet to strengthen the rule of law, and another about starting online legal information systems from scratch.

VoxPopuLII is edited by Judith Pratt. Editors-in-Chief are Stephanie Davidson and Christine Kirchberger, to whom queries should be directed.

In May of this year, one of us wrote a post discussing two research projects being conducted at the University of Montreal’s Chair in Legal Information. One of those projects, known by its team as the “Free Access to Law – Is It Here to Stay?” Project, has just concluded. This co-authored post is about that project, the stories we heard throughout conducting the research, and what we can learn from those stories about sustaining legal information institutes (LIIs) -- a concern that came up on many occasions at this year’s Law via the Internet Conference in Hong Kong, and again in the blogosphere in Eve Gray’s recent post, and Sean Hocking’s post on Slaw, among others.

The first section of this post -- written by Isabelle Moncion of Lexum -- is about the “Free Access to Law – Is It Here to Stay?” project as a whole, and the second portion, written by AfricanLII co-founder Mariya Badeva-Bright, focuses on lessons learned as applied to The African Legal Information Institute (AfricanLII).

First, a few words about the methodology of the “Free Access to Law – Is It Here to Stay?” project. In 11 countries and regions –- Burkina Faso, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Niger, the Philippines, South Africa, and Uganda –- researchers under the coordination of the Chair in Legal Information, AfricanLII, and the Centre for Internet and Society interviewed users of Free Access to Law (FAL) services, and practitioners who create and maintain those services, for purposes of building case studies on one FAL initiative per country. The research was guided by the Local Researcher’s Methodology Guide, which among other things asked the question, “What determines the sustainability of operations of Free Access to Law initiatives?” Along with the case studies (available here, published in the language in which they were written), a Good Practices Handbook (humbly renamed “Good” rather than “Best,” as stories from the FAL initiative showed that unfortunately, but not surprisingly, an always-successful series of practices does not exist) was written based on the results found in the case studies. The handbook will be online soon.

Do check out the case studies and good practices to find out more, as they will be able to provide you with much more in-depth analyses than we can provide in this post. But for now, allow me (Isabelle Moncion) to share a few stories and observations, and perhaps a preview of some good practices, before Mariya shows how these stories can be applied to building new, and supporting existing, LIIs.

PART 1

Sustainability… isn’t just about funding –

This statement is as much a conclusion from the case studies as it is the result of group discussions -- held prior to the field research -- devoted to defining "sustainability." Did sustainability mean how we fund LIIs, or was it start-to-finish practices leading to that funding? We went with the latter, and field stories showed that that was the right choice.

Organisational capacity is pivotal to a FAL initiative’s capacity to stick around. In Mali, funding wasn’t so much the issue: the FAL site disappeared when the student intern who had decided to launch the site -- after noticing the immense quantity and quality of legal information available at the NGO where he was working, and concluding that this information should be made available online -- completed his internship. In Indonesia, funding is without a doubt a challenge, but the Indonesian FAL site currently depends on a single individual, who is unable to devote the time required to maintain the site. The situation is similar in Niger, where the editor must go from court registry to court registry with an external hard drive to collect judgments. The Hong Kong Legal Information Institute's (HKLII’s) team is also small, but thanks to a judiciary-supported workflow, the team has been able to offer its users a high quality, reliable service. The Southern African Legal Information Institute (SAFLII) case study further demonstrates that organisational capacity facilitates response to financial crises. To quote from the Good Practices Handbook,  “… it is important to build redundancy and transfer knowledge to ensure continuity even on tight budgets. Having a meaningful internship programme with intense mentoring covering the two core skill areas of IT [information technology] and content management, coupled with good documentation, could contribute enormously to the viability of the FAL initiative.”

Organisational capacity also means knowing where one is headed. How many FAL initiatives did we encounter, whose personnel told us their objective is to “reinforce the rule of law” and their target audience is “everyone”? These are no doubt admirable and overarching goals of FAL, but if not coupled with specific objectives, these goals do little to help determine an organisation’s priorities and response to the needs of a particular stakeholder group that is potentially capable of financing the FAL initiative in the future.

Innovation… isn’t just another buzzword –

After using "sustainability" as many times as I have in this post, and now throwing in "innovation," I beg you to indulge me in this section, and assure you that I will attach meaning to my list of buzzwords. (I promise I’ll save “empowerment” or “participatory governance” for another day, but I may have to use “capacity building” soon.)

Innovation seems like an obvious “good practice” –- but what does it mean in the context of FAL? Many organisations now claim to have “innovation” as part of their values, but as Ginger Grant pointed out so well at a conference on Managing by Values, when asked, "Who are the organisation’s troublemakers?" bosses and managers seem proud to reply that they have none. Well if you have no troublemakers, asks Grant, who’s innovating?

Small FAL teams with limited resources have been able to succeed. Small teams seem to favour the birth of new ideas, which face less resistance than they may in larger teams. Larger teams have managed to reach their size precisely because they initially did something that no one else was doing at the time, but staying innovative can become an increasingly challenging feat.

Having a team knowledgeable in both (legal) information management and IT, knowing who the users are and what their needs are (e.g., making the effort to find out why and how users use the service, and how else they might use the service if resources were unlimited; using Web 2.0 technologies for all they have to offer respecting getting user feedback; etc.), and staying in touch with others doing similar work (the Free Access to Law Movement (FALM); the open source software movement; various open-access, access-to-knowledge, open-knowledge, etc. movements) are just some of the ways FAL initiatives have managed to stay ahead of the curve. This is in part how SAFLII and Kenya Law Reports became among the first LIIs to look in to mobile services. This is how the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) began offering point-in-time comparison of statutes. This is also how Indian Kanoon -- described in this VoxPopuLII post -- rests upon a single software engineer and hasn’t stopped growing since its launch.

Where there’s a will –

… there may not always be a way, but there is definitely no way without a will.

In any of the eleven countries studied, the success of FAL initiatives is often the result of key individuals passionate about the task at hand. In places where FAL initiatives have suffered, it is again often the result of lack of interest or competing priorities. Working to (here it comes) build capacity and foster innovation is the M.O. of FAL practitioners motivated often by nothing more than a conviction that “it’s the right thing to do.”

And I hear now what we’ve been told so often throughout the course of the study: “But what do you do when there just isn’t any money?” Of course, this is a monumental challenge for a number of FAL initiatives, but where legal information is being produced, legal information needs to be accessed. The beauty (and essence) of FAL is that content is available to users accessing content for professional reasons, and to any other user, whether he or she is interested in legal information for personal matters, education, social justice, etc. But each of those users may have different needs, and going back to what I was saying above, this is why, particularly with limited resources, it’s important to know whose needs will be prioritized.

Users requiring legal information for their profession are a great stakeholder to target, as they are likely to come with funds. Insure they are receiving a service that facilitates their work and they will see benefit in ensuring the service stays around. (This is part of CanLII’s story.) But, as in the case of West Africa, the legal profession itself isn’t always well funded. So, although I started by stating that sustainability wasn’t all about funding, allow me to conclude by admitting that funding is often FAL initiatives’ greatest concern. In the course of the study, we identified the following funding sources:

  • Advertising on the FAL initiative's Website
  • Government, including the judiciary
  • International development agencies
  • Law societies
  • NGOs, or members of civil society with similar missions
  • Private donations from users
  • Selling parallel, value-added services to subsidize the FAL portion of the initiative
  • University grants

Funding from each of these sources comes with strengths and challenges, but such funding also comes with the risk of drying up. Sustainable FAL initiatives have been able to offer user-targeted services, and to identify funding sources accordingly.

Part 2

The lessons from the Free Access to Law Study

Access to the law of many African countries is difficult, as this law is either locked away in expensive commercial databases, only available in a few law libraries housing out-of-date law reports, or simply not available. The free access to law movement in Africa, through the pioneering efforts of the Southern African Legal Information Institute (SAFLII) and the National Council for Law Reporting (incorporating Kenya Law Reports and KenLII), proved that this deplorable situation can be changed by applying information and communication technologies (ICTs) to the legal information domain. However, my personal experiences, and those of my team, in setting up and running SAFLII (until April 2010) revealed that the solution is not as easily implementable as we would have imagined it. Thoughts on the challenges faced are available through early VoxPopuLII posts by SAFLII’s team here and here.

Passion is a necessary prerequisite for a free access to law project to succeed. What we, then as a SAFLII team, learnt through our experience, was that besides zeal, IT expertise, and legal information knowledge, a great deal of business sense, structured business planning, and development were also required. We did have access to business expertise, but applying business principles to a novel, and non-profit, enterprise, without systematic guidance from those who had done it before, was very difficult.  We learned to navigate the landscape "on the job." The formulation of a business-development approach to these projects, without compromising the basic tenets of free access to law, has increasingly come into focus for many legal information institutes (LIIs) around the world and in Africa.

The first attempt at formalizing the business-development and project-management knowledge around free access to law projects was the sustainability study undertaken by LexUM and SAFLII in 2009, aptly entitled “Free Access to Law – Is It Here to Stay?”  The methodology guide produced during the study was especially useful as the guide systematized all functional, operational, and strategic areas that a free access to law project should account for in its development. All areas would presumably contribute to the strengthening, hence sustainability, of such projects. While I should immediately discount the notion that all new and existing LIIs should be implementing the elaborate structures and extensive practices detailed in the methodology guide assessment matrix (and this is clearly what emerges when we review the case studies produced), a combination of approaches within the broad areas coupled with contextualization for each country would, in my opinion, foster the development of more sustainable LIIs. In that sense, a discernable outcome of the FAL study has been the elaboration of a blueprint for the development of LIIs. The blueprint is based on the collective, two-decades-old knowledge of the free access to law community.

A major aim of the study has been proving the social value that free access to law delivers. To put it squarely, that means linking free access to primary legal materials to values such as democracy, rule of law, and transparency, as well as to more concrete outcomes such as facilitating education and investment, professional capacity, etc. The study does not establish precise causal links between what FAL projects do and these high democratic values. The case studies are largely committed to individual stories that may serve as a basis for a larger study. But the study has managed to isolate links between processes, projects, outputs, and some outcomes of LII projects.  The study, through the Good Practices Handbook, has identified causal links between a LII project’s design, implementation, and results. In doing so, the study has also provided the FAL and donor communities with a monitoring and evaluation framework for free access to law projects.

Free access to law projects are usually assessed on indicators such as numbers of documents published, the number of databases created, the number of unique visitors and hits to the Website, etc. But what meaning do growing document collections, growing usage, and a few words from grateful users have if the free access to law project does not use these indicators to channel support for its continued operation?  The FAL study has provided us with means to identify priorities and determine the relevance of projects in terms of fulfilling objectives efficiently and effectively, all the while focusing on sustainability. The study provokes a FAL project manager to collect, and donors to seek, credible and useful information that will enable a clear picture of the status of the FAL project to emerge. In addition, incorporation of the lessons learned into the review and development of the project’s operations and strategy will be vital.

To sum up, the main lessons that I have learned from the free access to law study are about streamlining operations and strategy around core thematic areas crucial for the sustainable future of a free access to law project. As a core set of principles that should guide a LII, my LII blueprint includes the following highlights:

  • Think sustainability from Day 1
  • Demonstrate value from Day 2
  • Build a solid organization (no matter how small)
  • Identify champions for the cause and make friends for the LII
  • Involve all stakeholders early in the life of the LII
  • Be transparent about overall objectives and how to achieve them in an efficient and effective way
  • Be transparent about income received and expenditures made
  • Review strategy and develop operations with an aim of achieving sustainable free access to law

AfricanLIIAfricanLII

The approach to free access to law that my new project -- the African Legal Information Institute (AfricanLII) -- takes is in many ways informed by the “Free Access to Law – Is It Here to Stay?” study. Having had the benefit of working on both elaborating the study’s methodology and conducting two of the case studies, I feel that we can continue to develop and apply the knowledge thus gathered to building a solid foundation for free access to law in Africa. The AfricanLII will be the hub that provides that platform.

Many people had spoken about the idea of establishing an AfricanLII before my colleagues Tererai Mafukidze and Kerry Anderson and I decided to form the Institute. Naturally, there were differences of opinion about what AfricanLII should do and how it should be structured. The commonality was that all saw AfricanLII as a continental-wide portal of African legal information, similar to what WorldLII, CommonLII, and AsianLII offered. The AfricanLII that we envisaged, however, is a lot different from other systems. It is not a centralized access point for African primary legal information. AfricanLII does not collect, digitize, and publish directly legal information from African jurisdictions. We do facilitate finding that information via a federated search facility and the African Legal Index. We do plan on building services around African legal information. But AfricanLII’s mission is to enable access to African legal information by entrenching free access to law principles on national level. We do this by working with institutions in individual African jurisdictions, and helping them establish national legal information institutes and develop and maintain them in a sustainable way.

A standardized approach to delivering free access to law through a regional collection point is not a viable option in Africa. I have learned this through my experience working for a regional portal of free law -- SAFLII -- operating in the context of a diverse, largely non-digitized, legal information environment. The regional approach does go a long way to prove value and incentivize commitment from national institutions and donors, but it does not provide room for meaningful outcomes, engagement, and a sustainable future for the concept of free access to law on our continent. (See the SAFLII case study in the FAL Project Website for more details.)

AfricanLII works with national LIIs (currently SwaziLII, MalawiLII, MozLII, SeyLII, SierraLII, and LesothoLII) to translate their particular environments into successful and sustainable free access to law operations. We implement sustainability measures on both national and regional levels. For example, targeting government and professional users to support content collection and publication in a jurisdiction is best achieved when the free access to law project is based in that jurisdiction and constantly interacts with the stakeholders to improve the value of its offering. Value additions are also best achieved by locals. AfricanLII assists national LIIs in formulating and executing strategies around local engagement. As a regional hub, we implement sustainability initiatives that make sense only on a regional level.  Website monetization activities -- web advertisements, directory services, and services around aggregated content, such as news and legal content or free and premium commercial publisher content mashups -- are all examples of projects that are best undertaken at a regional level, where more data and more traffic make the activities more profitable. Profits are then channelled into the free access to law work of national LIIs and AfricanLII. We have planned a rollout of financial sustainability initiatives that will take effect in the short, medium, and long terms.

Financial sustainability is achievable only if national LIIs stay on track and develop sound practices in pursuit of a clear strategy. AfricanLII provides contextual operational and strategic assistance, advice, and training to new LIIs which helps these projects develop to potential. In doing so, we engage in rapid skills transfer to organizations with little to no experience in free access to law projects. AfricanLII remains available for continued support beyond the initialization phase.

The Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa (OSISA), The Open Society Institute (OSI), and Freedom House have all provided start-up funding to AfricanLII and some of the national LIIs we support. AfricanLII has developed a monitoring and evaluation framework based on this FAL study which ensures that donor money is well spent and real outcomes are achieved. AfricanLII collects and presents donors with relevant, timely, and accurate information against indicators derived in a credible process.

In conclusion, the Free Access to Law study has had a tremendous, and perhaps not entirely expected, impact on the work of free access to law publishers in Africa. I expect that we will continue to use and develop the study to suit our projects and create new ones based on it.

Isabelle MoncionIsabelle Moncion is a project manager with Lexum, and was a research assistant at the Chair in Legal Information of the University of Montreal until the end of the above described research project. She holds an MA in political science with a specialisation in international development from the University of Quebec in Montreal, and a B.Sc. in political science and communications from the University of Ottawa.

Mariya Badeva-BrightMariya Badeva-Bright, Magister Iuris (Bulgaria), LL.M. (Law and Information Technology, Stockholm), co-founded AfricanLII as a project of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, and works primarily on content, legal information management, electronic legal research training, and policy development for new LIIs in Africa. She is the former Head of Legal Informatics and Policy at SAFLII. She is also a sessional lecturer at the School of Law, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.

VoxPopuLII is edited by Judith Pratt. Editor-in-Chief is Robert Richards, to whom queries should be directed. The statements above are not legal advice or legal representation. If you require legal advice, consult a lawyer. Find a lawyer in the Cornell LII Lawyer Directory.