Legal aid in the United States is broken. Legal Services Corporation (LSC), the country's primary funder of legal aid organizations, estimates that about half of eligible clients are turned away from the organizations it funds, and about eighty percent of the civil legal needs of low-income Americans remain unmet.
Tomorrow has arrived, but not for everyone. A digital divide persists, even in seemingly connected countries like the United States, where some twenty percent of the population, or sixty million people, don’t have Internet access at home. Those on the wrong side of the divide—the poor, the elderly, the geographically dispersed— are already marginalized, and tend to have a more critical need for specialized legal services, whether to resolve a conflict, acquire a land title, seek asylum, or escape an abusive situation.
We want to say thank you to all of our users and supporters for a tremendous and inspiring 2013. Your ideas, input, and investments helped us achieve so many accomplishments over the past year: we topped 100,000 downloads with FrontlineSMS. We launched FrontlineCloud. We received a Google Impact Award for our work with our partner Landesa to secure land rights for 80,000 families in India.
Landesa and FrontlineSMS are delighted to welcome and share the announcement today of a US $1.5m Google Global Impact Award, which will enable them to use mobile technology to transform the way that the government in the Indian state of Odisha helps landless families gain secure rights to their land and homes.
In the fourth of our seven blog posts celebrating the month that FrontlineSMS turns 7, Sean Martin McDonald, CEO of our social enterprise, reflects on howKOFAVIV, a women's organization in Port-Au-Prince, supports women affected by rape and domestic violence via SMS, in the aftermath of the 2010 Haitian Earthquake.
"My favorite thing about working at FrontlineSMS is just how commonly we’re exposed to people doing inspirational things to make their communities stronger. I don’t know that I’ve ever been to a community that has needed more strength than Port-Au-Prince in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake.
Amidst crushed concrete and the desperation of the tent camps, there’s an organization called KOFAVIV that has built a haven amidst the chaos. KOFAVIV is a network of women and men who reach into the often dangerous, neglected neighborhoods of Port-Au-Prince to extend a helping hand to victims of sexual violence in the moments when they need it most. KOFAVIV connects victims to healthcare, legal representation, and, most importantly, community, giving them a voice and a way forward. KOFAVIV was started by victims of rape who are now changing what it means to be a victim.
"In Spring of 2011, the women of KOFAVIV allowed me to stay with them for a few days, observing their work and contributing a few ideas about how FrontlineSMS could be used to improve coordination. The organization has used FrontlineSMS to organize gatherings, send urgent security alerts, and manage their network of agents.
"It’s easy to talk about communication; it’s hard and dangerous to see it done so well. When I celebrate FrontlineSMS and think of the things that we’ve accomplished over the last 7 years, my proudest moments are when I get to see how we’ve contributed, in the tiniest way possible, to the incredible feats of human courage and compassion enacted every single day by the women of KOFAVIV and the organizations like them."
We’re collecting photos of our users telling the world how they use FrontlineSMS. If you want to get in on the act, take a photo of yourself or your team holding a piece of paper or a whiteboard telling the world what you do with FrontlineSMS. For example: ‘I monitor elections’, ‘I safeguard children’ or ‘I make art’. You can see a slideshow of the photos we’ve had so far on our Flickr page.
It doesn’t matter what language it’s in as long as it’s legible and if possible you should be able to see from the photo where it was taken, so, if you can, get out of the office!
You can: - post to Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #FrontlineSMSat7 - email the picture and we’ll post them - post the picture on our Ning network and we’ll post them - post them on Flickr or any other web service and let us know where they are
By Sean McDonald. Reposted from the FrontlineSMS:Legal blog
In an unfortunately familiar near-panic, negotiating with a would-be immovable airline desk agent, I learned something about Liberia in specific, and progress in general. Solutions are better than rules and the new will never succeed without building on the old.
I was in Monrovia to attend the first ever Mobile Innovations Conference (MICO), which focused on ways to use mobile phones to augment the work of Liberia’s burgeoning civil society. The Conference, which was hosted by the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) and USAID, brought together media organizations from all over the country, election officials, the nation’s largest mobile service provider, USAID, cabinet ministries, civil society representatives, superintendents’ (governors) offices, and a handful of technology organizations. Through presentations and brainstorming sessions (and, as with any conference, lunch), we began to talk about both the opportunities and the challenges that face Liberian civil society.
Liberia is a country that is still hamstrung by the ravages of their civil war. Literacy hovers at 30 percent. The poverty is staggering and pervasive. There is little-to-no infrastructure. The better-off have reliable electricity provided by privately owned generators that run on scarce and expensive fuel. The undersea cable that is hoped to bring an affordable Internet to Liberia won’t make landfall until at least next year. It seems bleak.
Just like that day at the airport........(read more on the FrontlineSMS:Legal blog)
As we welcome the newest member of the FrontlineSMS family, below is a guest post from its founder, Sean Martin McDonald. You can find out more about them on their website, or by following them on Twitter. Congratulations and welcome to the team! The Case for FrontlineSMS:Legal Mobile technologies are changing the way that governments deliver services. Whether it’s coordinating local medical treatment or crowdsourcing disaster assistance, innovators everywhere are harnessing the power of mobile phones to reach entire populations who live outside the traditional reach of their governments. As the FrontlineSMS community continually demonstrates, many of the barriers to service delivery are based on communication problems, not the services themselves. The law is no different.
Millions of people live outside the reach and purview of their national legal systems, forcing them to endure abuse and neglect. In the absence of law, people turn to either local leaders or settle disputes themselves, resulting in informal, and even violent, resolutions. At the same time, there are a number of incredible local leaders and civil society actors who step-in to fill this void. These people and organizations often risk their own safety and credibility in order to resolve simple disputes for their communities without government support or protection.
FrontlineSMS:Legal uses mobile technologies to extend, improve, and coordinate dispute resolution systems, increasing local capacity and access to justice in the areas that need it most. For more information, check out the newest member of the FrontlineSMS Family here!