A digital companion, who has helped tens of thousands of people in abusive and controlling relationships with non-judgemental support, took top honours at South Africa’s HiiL legal innovation awards in Johannesburg last night.
rAInbow, an AI chatbot, addresses one of the most pressing justice needs in South Africa, where gender based violence affects millions.
In second place was Zimbabwean start-up LawBasket which gives small business the ability to easily access lawyers from across Africa by integrating their short-term insurances (such as motor vehicle, property and medical insurance as well as funeral policies) with add-on LawBasket cover.
And, in third place was for the children’s sake, pro bono mediation services that use professional mediators and members from the Wynberg magistrate’s court. This service offers families mediation at no charge to resolve disputes in the best interests of the children. for the children's sake is aiming to expand its services throughout South Africa.
The keynote address was delivered by South Africa’s Deputy Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development, Mr John Jeffery.
Quoting Ruth Ginsburg, the American lawyer and jurist who is an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court, Mr Jeffery said that in the past judges and judgments were only known to lawyers and not to the general public
“The first innovation was streaming court cases,” he said, “But what stands out for me, when looking at the innovations, is that they provide everyone with opportunities to access justice in a user-friendly way.”
The minister said there was a concerted effort in South Africa to use ICT to improve the provision of justice. This strategic approach would ensure that the storage and retrieval of documents was better, the state attorney’s office was modernised and innovation and e-development was used to make court processes more efficient.
Combating gender-based violence was of “critical importance” for the South African government, the minister said.
“An emergency response action plan is being developed because we need to ensure victims of violence who want to obtain protection orders are able to apply online.
At the moment, he said, “Police do not know now if a person arrested now has a protection order against him now.”
For all these reasons it was imperative that innovations, like those shortlisted, be looked at for solutions.
Themba Mahleka, HiiL’s Innovating Justice Agent in South Africa, said that of the nine finalists pitching their projects seven had female founders, more than in any other region.
He congratulated the finalists saying it had been “a long process to come from hundreds of applications to nine innovations”.
HiiL’s hub and franchise manager, Connor Sattely, said 60% of justice problems fell into five categories – family, employment, crime, neighbours, and land.
“When we talk about justice problems we talk about real problems that have a generational and economic impact,” he told the audience.
The Johannesburg Regional Finals is one of four events taking place in Africa to scout for the next generation of promising entrepreneurs and innovators who are working to prevent or resolve peoples’ most pressing justice needs.
Regional finals were held in Kampala (Uganda) in October with the next events in Lagos (Nigeria) and Nairobi (Kenya) on November 14.
A regional finals was also held in Kyiv (Ukraine) in October.
The very best will be selected for a place in Hiil’s Justice Accelerator programme where they can receive up to 20,000 Euros in grant funding, potential third party investment, tailored training and business development support, access to HiiL’s international network of experts and global exposure.
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