The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Yves Faguy

HackJustice: Tech apps that will improve access to justice

February 6 2017 6 February 2017

 

Over the course of two days, several participants at the MaRS Discovery District and at the Cyberjustice Laboratory at Université de Montréal gathered for Hackjustice, co-sponsored by the CBA, to code and build tech applications that will improve access to justice.

“I was truly excited, impressed and amazed by the technologies that our HackJustice participants were able to develop in what amounted to about 10 working hours,” said Nicole Aylwin, assistant director at the Winkler Institute for Dispute Resolution. “It was inspiring to see how conversations about the role of legal technology in improving access to justice helped informed participants creations.”

Each participating team was required to choose a challenge and later present their tech solution to panel of judges.  The three challenges were: to develop ways to use social media tools to engage and empower the public in policymaking; to resolve consumer disputes; and to develop tools to help people deal with everyday legal problems.

In Toronto, the first prize went to Pre-resolve for developing a website and mobile app that gives time and dollar estimates on the cost for different resolution options for family matters. The app lets users input some details about their unique situation and then scrapes data from various data sources to show how much, for example mediation might cost compared to going to court. The idea behind the tool is that access to these estimates will help families choose the route best for them, from both an emotional and financial standpoint. 

The runner up in Toronto was LearnMeTO, a mobile app that scrapes data about City Hall meetings, agendas etc. from the Toronto Councilmatic website an pushes it to users who have identified an interest in particular municipal policy topics or proposals that are tied to a specific geographic location.

In Montreal, Democrati.ca took the first prize for an app aimed at improving citizens’ participation in policymaking.  Specifically it helps people circulate petitions to elected officials at the municipal level. The runner-up was League of Lawyers: The team produced an app that helps the user pay or contest fines, and gives them information to help them follow the proper procedure.

Nicolas Vermeys, the assistant director of the Cyberjustice Laboratory, said that the teams all succeeded in addressing real access to justice issues. “Judges in both Montreal and Toronto mentioned how difficult it was to choose among the participants,” he said.  “What was great to see was the sense of camaraderie in the teams during the presentation.”

 

 

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