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Legal empowerment is concerned with strengthening the
capacity of all people to exercise their rights.4 It’s about
grassroots justice — ensuring that law is not confined to
books or courtrooms, but is available and meaningful to
People and organisations are working towards this goal worldwide,
in ways ranging from expanding provision of free legal services to
making public legal education and information more accessible. All
these approaches focus on explaining to people how the law affects
them on a day-to-day basis, improving their ability to access formal
justice systems, and empowering people to change the law.
This report describes one way in which legal empowerment actors are
attempting to do this: using technology to give people information
about the law, connect them with legal advice, and provide them with
Based on a scan of 136 initiatives worldwide and interviews with more
than 50 people, the report analyses how technology is being used for
legal empowerment work in jurisdictions with widely varying justice
systems, legal aid provision, connectivity and access to technology.
While recognising the important recent work by governments to
increase the efficiency and accessibility of the formal justice system,
the report foregrounds the activities of non-profit organisations,
companies and social enterprises that operate separately from — or
seek to augment — state-provided legal services.
The report examines a broad range of types of technology targeted
at ordinary citizens, from SMS-based information systems to sites
that allow people to assemble legal documents, resolve disputes
and find legal information tailored to their situation. Throughout, it
focuses on what technology does — and does not — add to existing
ways of building the trusted relationships that are essential to legal
Drawing on the experiences of the people who design, build and
manage these initiatives, the report aims to understand what makes
public-facing technology-enabled projects more likely to be used and