August 2014 Update
The Seychelles Legal Information Institute, SeyLII, blogged in January 2014 about an exciting new project for delivering free electronic access to core legislation resources. That project, which has come to be known as the e-Grey Book, has now come to fruition. The result is freely accessible through the SeyLII website.
As described in the previous blog, the e-Grey Book idea grew from the traditional East African concept of a Grey Book – a single-volume compilation of frequently cited legislation that can be carried in and beyond the courtroom with ease. Seychelles has never benefited from a hard-copy publication of this kind. Locating reliable, up-to-date editions of individual pieces of legislation in hard copy has been a challenge in itself. It was this challenge that spurred the developers of SeyLII to commission a privately consolidated digital edition of the entire body of domestic legislation. That work, in turn, laid the foundation for leapfrogging the traditional Grey Book and moving directly to an e-Grey Book.
The e-Grey Book of Seychelles was launched by the Chief Justice on 29 April 2014, under the auspices of SeyLII, in a public event which attracted widespread coverage by national news media. The Book comprises 80 pieces of primary legislation (including the Civil and Penal Codes) and their associated statutory instruments. It is built on the Zoupio platform, which takes as an input the most universally used authoring format (MS Word) and transforms it into a fully interactive web interactive version of legislation. Any interested person can access the Book’s index page through a link from the main SeyLII site. From there, there are options to view individual legislation pages online, to search, print, or download those pages as PDF or ePub files, or to download the whole Book in ePub form. All options are free and unrestricted.
[eGrey Book 1 May 2014 - 1 August 2014: Unique Visitors and Geographical Distribution]
The e-Grey Book has been designed for both online and offline use, with the SeyLII site providing a reference point for offline users to track updates. This offline capacity is particularly important for Seychelles, where tablets and smartphones are becoming ubiquitous but WiFi access is still relatively limited and costly. With WiFi not yet available in courtrooms, it has been possible to store the entire e-Grey Book (and other key legislation resources) on tablets which the European Union has donated for the use of judicial officers. Many attorneys who regularly appear in court have adopted the same approach with their own tablets.
Has the e-Grey Book reached its target audience? Anecdotal evidence from judicial officers and attorneys certainly suggests so. Statistics so far are very encouraging, mirroring the ever-increasing popularity of the main SeyLII site. In the three months following the launch, there were almost 1,900 (*note our web statistics software - Piwik - was offline for about a week in May 2014, so this number may be slightly higer) unique visits to the e-Grey Book’s index page, more than half of which were made by returning visitors. Of the returning visitors, half returned within 24 hours of their first visit, and nearly a quarter returned 9 times or more. While 70% of visits came from within Seychelles, the site was accessed from over 45 countries. The most commonly viewed pages were the Civil Code, Companies Act, Employment Act, Penal Code, Licences Act, and of course the Constitution – the laws with the most significant impact on the everyday life of Seychellois. At least 100 people accessed the site directly from their mobiles. Individual legislation pages were downloaded 370 times, and more than 150 users downloaded the entire e-Grey Book in ePub form. In a country with only about 50 practicing attorneys, that is a great sign.
[eGrey Book 1 May 2014 - 1 August 2014: Returning visitors]
Supporting the e-Grey Book resources, since the launch in April, the entire balance of the legislative collection on the SeyLII site has been consolidated and updated. While all SeyLII legislation resources remain unofficial for now, users should be able to locate and track the laws which apply to them without cost and with relative confidence. That is a significant advance for the rule of law in Seychelles.
[eGrey Book 1 May 2014 - 1 August 2014: Downloads and Platforms]
As mentioned in the first blog, the most exciting aspect of the e-Grey Book concept is its potential for expansion and replicability, particularly in the African region. With the early success of the Seychelles model, and the continuing support of AfricanLII and external donors, that potential is real. All of us involved in the e-Grey Book through SeyLII would urge our colleagues in other jurisdictions to consider whether the concept might work for them. We stand ready and willing to share our experiences and ideas. As the national motto of Seychelles affirms – the end crowns the work!
We once again expressly offer our grateful thanks to the Indigo Trust, the Open Society Foundations and the European Union for sponsoring this project.