“Open Access to Public Legal Information – Thoughts and Lessons from Kenya”
A Presentation By
Michael M. Murungi
Access to African Supranational and Regional Law
Hosted by the African Legal Information Institute, a project of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre
In partnership with the United Nations Development Programme
5-6 November 2012,
The Crowne Plaza, Rosebank
Johannesburg, South Africa
o What is the role of government when it comes to infrastructure?
§ An effective transport and communication system is an imperative for human progress, or development (example of Valley Road in Nairobi)
§ The speed and efficiency at which goods and people can move is a defining factor in the growth of an economy
§ The work of government in this regard: urban planning, funding road construction
§ It is an open piece of architecture. You don’t need government permission to use the road. The permission is already given.
§ It is not a road for government vehicles. It is a road for all vehicles – private vehicles as well. In fact you will find more private than government vehicles.
§ It is also an interoperable piece of architecture - vans, tractors, buses, trucks, bicycles, pedestrians. This means that it has been built to a certain standard
§ what has changed about road construction today? (human effort, mechanical engineering technology)
§ What has changed about the cost of publishing today? (human effort, communications technology) – (example of 1906 Kenya Gazette, compared with 2012 Kenya Gazette)
§ What happened when government tried to monopolise the use of the road? Stagnation, limited choice, quality, cannot meet the demand, people don’t move, the economy does not grow
§ What happens when government opens up so that private sector can do a passenger business on it:
· Explosion of consumer choice
· New transportation business models emerge
· People and goods move
· The economy grows
o What is the role of government when it comes to public information?
§ Information age. Information and knowledge society/economy.
§ Information is the lifeblood of the new society/economy. The movement of information – ideas – knowledge is as important now as the Movement of people and goods
§ The speed with which people and institutions acquire and apply new knowledge is the new definition the competitive edge
§ The role of government with regard to the movement of information, ideas, knowledge.
· To provide the conditions in which a knowledge economy will thrive
o Policies, laws and procedures for access to information (access to information as a constitutional right)
o Not to strangulate the flow of information or to monopolize the dissemination of information (it is not the work of government to compete with the private sector or CSOs….)
o To provide easy access to public information
o Public information of good quality – interoperable
§ In the old order access to government print was the goal
§ Today, it is not enough to just provide public information – the metrics of access now are the
· Technology platforms on which the info is provided
§ Open, Re-usable, interoperable
§ Access to public information is even a human right in Kenya
§ Kenya has had a very eventful experience in providing access to public legal information.
§ Laws and Law Reports for example
· 1897-1905: Kenya’s first output of law reports (East African Law Reports)
· Laws were published by the Crown Press
· 1934 – 1956: Court of Appeal for Eastern Africa Law Reports (EALR)
· 1957 –75: The East Africa Law Reports (cited as E.A.)
· End of British rule in mid 1960s. Then the rain started beating us
§ 1982-1992: Two volumes of what were known as the Kenya Appeal Reports
o About NCLR
§ In 1995, the National Council for Law Reporting Act was passed About NCLR – NCLR Mandate - http://www.kenyalaw.org/klr/index.php?id=29
NCLR Free Access message http://www.kenyalaw.org/klr/index.php?id=401
Kenya Open Data - https://opendata.go.ke/
o But Governments can provide both access to basic/raw information and also innovate by providing value-add information products/services?
§ Moving from merely providing access to information
§ Generate and disseminate knowledge
o Are we constrained by a lack of resources?
§ What was the cost of the technologies for road construction in the 1970s?
§ What was the cost (human effort and monetary expense) of the technologies for publishing the Laws of the colony of Kenya in 1900s compared to today?
§ Strategic decision by NCLR
· Development partner support towards access to info programmes is more than private company profits from selling public information
· There is non-financial benefit to providing easy access to information – a legally informed, empowered and participative citizenry
o Geographical boundaries are disappearing
· Nations are merging
· Regional legislative bodies
· Common markets – free movement of people and information
· Nations are building regional, transcontinental roads
· Building roads that shake hands with each other
· Free movement of information and ideas?
· What about access to regional law – are we building information architecture that makes it easier for our regional/continental/global citizens to easily access public information
· East African Legislative Assembly
· THE END