Human Rights Remedy Mobile Application
Courtlex Technologies is a tech company that works to identify, design and implement Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) oriented tech-related solutions to address legal, urban, and education related problems. Courtlex’s works fit within SDG 4 (Quality education), SDG 11 Sustainable cities and communities and SDG 16 (Peace, justice and strong institutions). The company was founded and is led by young people below the age of 26. The LegalTech department’s first project is a Human Rights Remedy Mobile Application.
The human rights application project addressed access to justice, protection, and accountability during the COVID-19 pandemic. The government of Zimbabwe introduced measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by imposing movement restrictions. The lockdown, which was initially for three weeks, was periodically extended throughout 2020 and 2021. However, information about lockdown rules was unclear, and their implementation appeared to be arbitrary. The result was human rights violations in various sectors across the country. As a result, there has been a real need to address human rights violations in Zimbabwe.
Through the Human Rights Remedy Mobile Application, citizens receive legal assistance from their homes on what to say when confronted by police officers, organisations providing free assistance, contact details of courts, lawyers, and police stations. This project relates to the SIC themes of Government Accountability & Transparency and Community Rights & Resilience.
Problem Statement and Solution
In 2020, Human Rights Zimbabwe (HRZ) reported grave concerns with the independence of the judiciary in Zimbabwe. Some of the challenges that the report raised were government restrictions on freedom of expression, threats of violence, unjustified arrests, substantial interference with the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of association. Zimbabwe is marred by human rights and governance problems and has experienced a social economic crisis since 1997, which negatively impacted most of the citizens.
Courteney Takura Mutoyi and four other youths came together to leverage their diverse backgrounds to create a life-changing solution to legal information access for Zimbabweans and the rest of Africa. These five youths were hungry for change and energetic to implement what they had studied in college to benefit the citizens of Zimbabwe. They named themselves “Courtlex Technologies” and developed a technological solution to address some of the challenges citizens faced.
Courtlex Technologies built the “Human Rights Remedy Mobile Application” named Astrea which focuses on bridging the gaps between lawyers, citizens, courts, and justice institutions. Astrea educates users on constitutional rights and other rights provided in various pieces of legislation. It empowers citizens with knowledge of common law to assert their rights against authority figures.
Achievements to date
- Upgrading of User Interface and User Experience - Courtlex successfully uploaded the app onto the Google Play Store and upgraded the user interface. The App is currently under review by the Google Play Store. The upgrades implemented allow for easy identification of Human Rights Lawyers. A user will be able to access contact details such as the address and geographical location of the Human Rights lawyers.
- Translation and Compliance - The Constitution of Zimbabwe is available in three local languages: English, Shona and Ndebele. As the App progresses, it will be translated into more local languages to allow users to access the constitution in languages they understand. The translation further explains the remedies that one should pursue in the event of a violation. The constitution of Zimbabwe recognizes sixteen official languages and Courtlex Technologies are the first organization to translate any part of the constitution into more than one local language.
- Toll Free Number - Two mobile numbers have been secured for communication via text messages, calls and WhatsApp. These have been turned into toll free numbers.
- WhatsApp Chatbot - A WhatsApp chatbot system was built and completed. The WhatsApp chatbot will be available to those members of society with limited data and unable to download the mobile application. The bot will enable real-time assistance to any aggrieved person.
Long-term Expected project results
The project, when fully developed, is expected to assist more than 20 000 people across the country, as long as they have access to it. It is expected to be widened to the extent of instantly accessing lawyers and organizations that assist people to get human rights remedies freely. The app will be widened so that even the users without smartphones can access by simply dialing a USSD code. The project will definitely lead to a more empowered citizenry conscious of its rights, more accountable institutions and ease of access to lawyers, and free legal services.