Thea Anderson
Director, Beneficial Technology
Franklyn Odhiambo

Levering Technology for Justice: Why We Invested in Lawyers Hub

December 12, 2019

No one should have to surrender their human rights for an ID. Whether digital or analog, an ID should enable greater access to services for more people and trust between people and institutions. It should strengthen societies and economies. That potential is hampered if the ID is designed or governed in secrecy, introduced too quickly or without sustained public engagement for accountability and safeguards, or does not demonstrate value to individuals. Omidyar Network believes that all decisions about ID—and any personal data—should be transparent, with prudence, inside a legal framework that protects and amplifies people’s rights.

That’s why we invested in Nairobi-based Lawyers Hub, the first innovation hub in Africa for technology startups run by lawyers. New and emerging technologies are reshaping the legal profession, providing an opportunity and demand for new skills and new voices to lead in the future. Lawyers Hub is a community of lawyers with a tech innovation mindset and leading new  models for advocacy and policy innovation to keep governments accountable to the public they serve. Founded in 2016, Lawyers Hub bridges the justice gap by strengthening the capacity of lawyers to engage on innovative policymaking within the African landscape.

Lawyers Hub quickly responded to the draft Huduma Bill issued by the Kenyan government in July 2019. With financial support from Omidyar Network and Mozilla, Lawyers Hub was able to mobilize awareness through social media and forums to drive public participation and spark debate. Within months, Lawyers Hub has raised a spotlight on the risks and opportunities of ID programs and emerging digital technology:

  • Created publicly available analysis of the Huduma Bill, submitted to Kenya’s Ministry of Interior, and provided an alternative Huduma Bill and draft regulations that included dismissal of penalties for non-registration, integration for refugees and stateless populations, comprehensive data protection guidelines, and data minimization.
  • Issued recommendations to improve the data protection bill that were recognized in the Kenya Parliament Committee Report and reflected in the Data Protection Bill signed into law in November 2019.
  • Facilitated four policy hackathons across Kenya, engaging national and county policymakers, technology experts, the legal community, and civil society to share and challenge ideas on digital ID and data protection that informed the alternative draft of the Huduma Bill.
  • In partnership with the Kenya Human Rights Commission, Law Society of Kenya, Namati, and several others, held public forums and Twitter debates to spark conversation and awareness on digital ID, reaching journalists, online bloggers, and members of Parliament.
  • Led education and media campaigns on digital ID across different media, including Citizen TV and to Kenya’s Parliament ICT Committee on the need for data protection before the introduction of a new digital ID, which aired on the Kenya Television Network.
  • Facilitated a training of 100 senior public prosecutors in Kenya on the nexus of digital ID and prosecution of future identity crimes in a bid to enhance Good ID. This culminated in a hackathon and policy incubation program co-facilitated with Safaricom.
  • Kickstarted a regional conversation on digital ID and convergence with the East Africa Law Society convened in Kigali with senior regional court and state officials.
  • Together with Afrilabs, a network of 174 innovation hubs across 45 countries, led several workshops on learnings from digital ID programs in Kenya and will lead the network’s continental tech policy engagement in 2020.

We are thrilled to extend our partnership with Lawyers Hub through 2022 to support their efforts on several fronts beyond ID to:

  • Build peer networks of policymakers, regulators, lawyers, human rights activists, and tech startups through policy forums across Kenya and the continent.
  • Draft new and alternative policy recommendations for emerging technology and ensure comprehensive privacy and data protection safeguards are firmly in place.
  • Launch the sector-setting Africa Law Tech Festival March 6-11, 2020 in Nairobi, Kenya (follow @africalawtech).
  • Explore a law and technology policy innovation institute to establish common best practices between civil society and governments to discuss policy and legislation.
  • Develop a network of South-South litigation counsel and civil society involved in data and digital rights, digital ID, and e-government cases.
  • Engage and strengthen journalists’ understanding of emerging technology issues across Africa. 

Join the conversation on Twitter @lawyershubkenya, @goodID, and @omidyarnetwork. 

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