SMS/Mobile for Legal Empowerment


With the upcoming Global Legal Empowerment Network webinar on technology, and further explorations for technology for legal empowerment at OSF, we are interesting in learning about new or lesser known examples of SMS/mobile tools for legal empowerment. What have you learned about recently that you found exciting, innovative, or effective? @EricaTeasleyLinnick @ncamburian @mburnett

Looking forward to hearing from you!



Hi Katrina! It’s great to see you posting in the forum.

One question that I’d be interested to hear from experienced experts about is the extent to which SMS is still in use at all, given the rise of android and ios devices with apps that can do so much more than send/receive short text messages.

This forum, for example, can be joined by visiting in a browser on any Internet-connected device. I hear frequently about WhatsApp as well - often at our learning exchanges, unprompted by us, the first thing participants do is create a whatsapp group for exchanging logistical details with one another. What is the experience of network members with using the forum and whatsapp, and other similar tools simply for networking and connecting and sharing information?

For legal empowerment work specifically, case management comes immediately to mind. I’d also love an update from members on how they are using mobile apps for case management. There are two excellent topics in the forum already:

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Hi Tobias, It’s nice to hear from you, as well!

You are right that the opportunities with smart phones are increasing exponentially in all fields. I’ll dig into the resources and examples you shared, which fit nicely with our work with @tomwalker.

I was excited to learn about Facebook Zero, which was mentioned by @Time at the Bernstein Institute’s recent conference, “Reimagining Justice: Realizing Human Rights through Legal Empowerment.” As I understand, Facebook Zero helps overcome issues around data costs and low bandwidth.

With both high tech and low tech, we are interested in other examples of client facing technology for legal empowerment, and the stories around how those tools were developed.

Thanks again!

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You guys know of this example already, but for others who are just joining in on the conversation:

In the US, ProBononet partnered with Citizenshipworks to develop a great mobile app that walks you step-by-step through pathways to citizenship. It guides users through the application process, clarifies citizenship requirements, and helps find legal assistance located near the user. It also includes useful checklists, tools to help people prepare for citizenship tests (like reading and writing quizzes and touch flashcards), calculators to track savings, multimedia functionality (using audio to dictate phrases to be written in English), and more.

A great model to keep in mind, the app gets good reviews!


Thank you @katrinanoyes for starting this thread! It’s great to read about these pioneering initiatives from around the world.

My personal favourite is Steps to Justice Ontario Their online tool is meant to help laypersons access information and references - it is one of the best designed interfaces I’ve seen. It is also nice to read that this is a collaborative effort among justice sector organisations.

Another tool I recently read about and which appears to have a lot of potential for legal empowerment is WhereGovernment in Netherlands. By publishing municipal level data, they can help make citizen-government interactions at the local level more transparent.

From India, we have which is again an online tool to simplify legal information. Having worked with this organisation previously, I had reflected on why we needed this in India here.


Hi :slight_smile:

Thank you for starting this conversation @katrinanoyes.

@tobiaseigen I agree that the smartphones have a lot of features that can be used more effectively than sms. However, when we talk about smartphones and legal empowerment we have to keep in mind the 3rd question that we need to ask ourselves (thank you @tomwalker :slight_smile: ) Who might get left out if you are relaying only on smartphones with access to internet? I guess this webinar could help us to answer to the question - How can we use other available tools that are more financially accessible? It seems that regular cheaper mobile phone could be the answer. The sms texting is less sophisticated and probably more easy to use for some communities.

I remember when I attended the Leadership Course in 2016, @zazanamoradze and @PascoePleasence told us to be careful. Using IT tools can widen the reach of people who have more access to justice, however it also will increase the gap between people who have the necessary resources and those who don’t.