N-Map’s Virtual Visit to South Africa

On Wednesday, N-Map conducted its first teleconferenced training on New Media Advocacy.  Adam spoke to a group of committed African attorneys in a training with the Human Rights Development Initiative (HRDI).

The HRDI has a unique and powerful model for fighting for human rights and rule of law in Africa: train new public interest lawyers, and create a culture of public interest lawyering in the Great Lakes and Southern regions of Africa.  It’s an amazing idea and, judging from the quality of the lawyers that I talked to during the training, very successful.  Here’s a photo of the training — yes, that’s me on the big screen.

We spent almost four hours talking about using new media to support legal advocacy — particularly interesting in Africa for a variety of reasons.   Two of these reasons stand out to me.  First, in many countries in Africa, including places where the HRDI lawyers work, it is very hard to get a remedy for clients using the conventional tools that we use in countries with stronger legal systems,  i.e., litigation, policy advocacy, etc.  New technology offers some alternative methods for gathering information and pressuring opponents that did not exist several years ago.

Second is based on the theory that Africa, as well as other economically poor regions, is “leapfrogging” earlier generations of technology, particularly communications technology.  This is most evident with mobile phones — long before telephone lines were laid throughout the continent, mobile phones became ubiquitous.   To what extent will this technological “leapfrogging” continue to occur, and how can it be used to improve rule of law and democratic accountability is a huge and interesting question.  I’m sure there’s a great deal of research on this already.  If you know of any, please send it my way.

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