Access to legal information is inextricably linked to access to justice. The fact that not many people know where to get hold of South Africa’s lawbooks or can afford a lawyer to interpret them is a huge problem not just for those accused of criminal behaviour, but also for anyone who wants to press charges, defend a particular claim or even start their own business in a legal manner.

Enter Indigo platform, an open source legislation consolidation and publishing platform that wants to ensure easy access to the country’s laws for professionals and ordinary people. Indigo platform is being constructed by Code4SA, with the support of The African Legal Information Institute (AfricanLII) and funding from the Indigo Trust.

“Our goal is to help them provide free access to online legislation in Africa. We want to make it simpler to publish legislation in standardised formats that are easy to read, navigate, share and analyse.” says Code4SA Principal Technologist Greg Kempe.

The platform is currently being tested and will be free at the point of use.

“Writing, amending, consolidating, managing and publishing legislation is complicated and our budget is small. That’s why we’re focusing on only a few parts of the larger process – consolidating and publishing – and trying to keep it simple with an iterative development process and open standards.”explains Kempe through his blog. Kempe is presenting a tutorial on the platform in Cape Town today.

The Indigo platform is a Django python web application. It comprises a web application for managing and editing documents as well as an application REST API upon which the web application runs. A public read-only REST API for vending published legislative documents in several formats including HTML and XML is included.

Indigo relies heavily on Akoma Ntoso XML and is inspired by advanced free access to legislation portals like legislation.gov.uk. A few statutes have been loaded onto the platform. Check it out here.

[Image courtesy of @AfricanLII]