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Justice Innovation

Justice Innovation (7)

A young pregnant woman undergoes a caesarean by an unqualified doctor and is now in pain every day but is afraid to report it to the police. A farmer becomes a victim of land grabbing, and is unable to feed his family, but can't afford transportation to the courthouse. A wife is severely beaten by her drunken husband but does not know where to turn to for help. These are all true stories, and we heard many stories similar to these accounts in the course of researching “Justice Needs in Uganda”. In this research launched on the 14th of April by my organization, HiiL, Innovating Justice, we interviewed more than 6000 people from all corners of the country.  

It turns out that almost nine out of 10 Ugandan citizens needed access to the justice system over the last few years, but their needs remained unmet. Many of those who embarked on a justice journey, either through the informal or formal system, found the processes to be lengthy and unfair, especially when the other party was richer or more powerful. Others struggled to navigate complex systems in the absence of clear information about the appropriate organization or institution to address their specific problems. And still others believe that no matter what they did, nothing would change their situation for the better. The fact is, across the country, millions of Ugandans have to deal with these issues. 

 But it’s not all bad news. Citizens often (in almost half of the cases of justice problems) turn to the Local Council Courts (LCCs) for dispute resolution, because decisions there are reached quickly, and they are accessible both financially and geographically. During our research, we were frequently told that going to the Local Council is the first step: “Where else would you go unless it is a big case that requires police?” 

That said, LCCs suffer from several weaknesses such as lack of legal skills, and it is not uncommon to see existing power structures in communities be transferred to the LCCs, especially at the village or parish level. These problems could be alleviated if the government were to take concrete steps towards strengthening the ties between the formal and informal justice systems, while simultaneously empowering the LCCs with the resources and skills necessary to provide fair solutions. This can include dialogue and training to introduce LCC Chairpersons to inclusive dispute resolution approaches, new laws and supporting dialogue processes to build synergies between the formal and informal justice system. Another strategy for improvement is supporting entrepreneurs that set up innovative businesses centred on justice needs. Within an ecosystem of investor networks, business incubators, creatives and justice professionals, those businesses that have successfully demonstrated ‘proof-of-principle’ can be scaled up. An example of such a ‘justice innovation’ is the mSMEGarage founded by ‘Barefoot Lawyers’: a group of Ugandan lawyers providing (free) legal advice to people and small businesses amongst other via Facebook, SMS, WhatsApp, and an online platform. A third strategy is to invest in innovating and simplifying procedures where access to justice is most needed, such as family and land problems. 

Improving access to justice will pay dividends many times over. Given how key this is for citizens’ livelihoods, improving the system will yield positive benefits for the development of Ugandan society. If individuals are able to access justice and thereby secure their income and livelihoods, this will have a positive effect that ripples through the economy and society

At the end of the day, it will be crucial for the Justice Law & Order Sector (JLOS) in Uganda to evolve in a way that improves access to justice for the citizens who need it the most. Fortunately, there are positive indications of such progress, given the sector’s focus on establishing and sustaining linkages and oversight over informal mechanisms, such as the Local Council Courts. During the launch of our report, Rachel Odoi, the senior technical advisor to JLOS emphasized that our findings “could have a tremendous impact on the future of the justice system in Uganda. The proposed solutions and tools provide a blueprint for action.” 

 Time will tell how these developments will play out, and HiiL looks forward to supporting JLOS and other stakeholders in making Kampala the ‘Justice Innovation Capital of Africa,’ as Chief Justice Emeritus Benjamin Odoki eloquently stated. Consequently, the next time a woman is abused by her husband, or a farmer’s land is stolen from him, they will know where to go for quick and fair solutions. They will know how to find justice.


The writer is a justice sector advisor at HiiL.  Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

By Nathalie Dijkman

For the second time HiiL has held an Innovating Justice Boostcamp in Kampala, which took place on 7 and 8 September this year. The Boostcamp was part of the selection process for the winners of the Innovating Justice Challenge 2017, a global challenge that seeks to find innovative solutions preventing or resolving the most pressing justice needs of people around the world. 

This year, from over 60 applications that came in from Uganda, 10 were shortlisted by HiiL to take part in the Boostcamp, and 5 of those ended up pitching in front of a jury to stand to win the Challenge. The shortlisted innovations are tackling a variety of justice needs, including gender-based violence, land disputes, forced migration and employment issues. 

During the first day of the Boostcamp, the group of innovators took off on a bus early morning to Entebbe to spend a full training day in retreat-setting guided by a group of expert mentors. The programme included learning about Lean Start-up methodology, filling out a Social Business Canvas, designing their first experiments on a Javelin Board and practicing their 4-minute pitch. In the afternoon the teams, recognized by bright ‘Justler’ t-shirts, went off into a small town off Entebbe Road to conduct interviews with local citizens, testing their main assumptions. As one of the innovators said: “We learned a lot from listening to people who are meant to use our service. (…) From all the people we talked to, everyone has had a problem with land. They didn’t know where to go and the question then is whether our service can make a real difference.” 

The next day, on 8 September, the wider public and key stakeholders were invited to the Boostcamp to meet the innovators and exchange ideas on justice innovation. This event was held at Africana Hotel during the Legal Aid Innovations Conference, which was co-organized by BarefootLaw, LASPNET, DGF and HiiL. The morning of the event held speeches by a.o. Chief Justice Katureebe, the Ambassador of the Embassy of the Netherlands and the Chair of the Judiciary ICT Committee Justice Kiryabwire. Up to 300 people came to this inaugural conference to learn about the most innovative justice solutions currently available in Uganda and how to improve justice through technology and citizen-centred solutions. HiiL’s Justice Needs in Uganda report, which was launched in April 2016, was mentioned by all stakeholders as a cornerstone of the evidence currently available on the most pressing justice needs in Uganda. 

The five innovations selected by HiiL which were pitching in front of the jury in the afternoon included: E-Migrate (an easy and safe travel agency for migrants and refugees), Evidence and Methods Lab (smart infographics of complex justice problems to promote accountability), Muslim Centre for Justice e-Law App (a legal sms service for Muslim minorities and users of the Qhuadi court), Land Title Search App (a smartphone land title verification tool) and Weetase (a voice-based mobile app to monitor victims of (forced) migration and trafficking). 

The 5-headed Jury, chaired by Lucy Ladira, the lead Advisor on Criminal Justice at the JLOS Secretariat, concluded during the public Jury Debrief that they were impressed by the pitches and solutions of all teams, although there was definitely a need for them to research their problem further. The Evidence and Methods Lab was announced as winner by HiiL’s alumni (Lawyers4Farmers and Justice2People), and special mentions went out to Weetase and the Muslim Centre for Justice (strongest impact) as well as the Land Title App (best presentation). 

This month HiiL is holding similar Boostcamps in Accra (Ghana), Nairobi (Kenya), Johannesburg (South Africa), The Hague (Netherlands) and Kyiv (Ukraine). At each event, innovators are trained and winners are selected by a local jury. All winners of the Boostcamps win 5000 EUR in seed funding and are invited to take part in HiiL’s Accelerator programme. In total, 12 teams are also invited to come to The Hague in December to take part in the Justice Entrepreneurship School and present their innovations in the Peace Palace. 


Nathalie Dijkman is the Justice Sector Advisor (East Africa Program Coordinator) at HiiL


Published: September 19, 2017




For 15 years, the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) has spearheaded the promotion of the rule of law and access to justice for all Ugandans. JLOS has become synonymous with cutting-edge reforms and innovations in the justice system, these which can be traced back to the highly acclaimed Chain Linked Initiative first launched in 1999. In doing so, the Sector has driven improvements in infrastructure, human development, and institutional capacity as well as introduced new ways of delivering justice and ensuring law and order

From promoting Community Policing, a joint effort approach that allows the Uganda Police and the communities within which they serve to work together to maintain law and order, to prioritizing children’s cases in courts in an effort for improved juvenile justice, to improving the environment for doing business through commercial justice reforms, the Sector has undoubtedly impacted the lives of many Ugandans. JLOS is committed to concretizing these efforts especially to serve the poorest and most vulnerable among the Ugandan population.

It is my pleasure therefore to introduce this publication that highlights some JLOS innovations and interventions that tell of the Sector’s impact over the years. These stories highlight our demonstrated pledge to ensure justice for all and JLOS’s contribution to building a renewed trust in the institutions mandated with delivering justice in Uganda. Further to that, they provide an insight into the ideal future that we envisage for the Sector and for the Ugandan society as far as justice, law and order are concerned.

While the stories highlighted reflect how far the Sector has come, we are cognizant of the challenge for continuous improvement and accept it with a renewed zeal. JLOS, therefore, remains dedicated to the creation of a society that protects and promotes fundamental rights, one that ensures the respect of law as well as one that works to build the necessary structures to nurture a vibrant and growing economy for Uganda. As we work more closely with our partners in Government, civil society, the international community, and with Ugandans from all walks of life, we look forward to greater achievements in the years to come.


Bart M. Katureebe

Chief Justice of the Republic of Uganda

October 10, 2015 



Produced by LPLC Consult Uganda, Ltd. for JLOS - the Justice Law and Order Sector in Uganda 

Financed by the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) © 2015 - The Justice, Law and Order Sector (Government of the Republic of Uganda). All Rights Reserved.


Lead Writer and Editor:

 Annet Mbabazi Ntezi


JLOS Editorial Team:

Rachel Odoi-Musoke

Sam Rogers Wairagala

Edgar Kuhimbisa


Design and Layout:

Gerald Ssali (87 Eight Seven)


In December 2017, the European Union signed an agreement with the Ministry of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development (MoFPED) to provide 66 million Euros for three years to strengthen performance and reforms in the Justice Law and Order Sector and Accountability Sector.

The Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) is a sector-wide approach (SWAP) adopted by the Uganda Government since 2000 to bring together institutions with closely linked mandates of administering justice and maintaining law and order and human rights. This was undertaken to develop a common vision, policy framework, unified objectives, and plan over the medium term. JLOS focuses on a holistic approach to improving access to and administration of justice through the SWAP, including planning, budgeting, program implementations, monitoring, and evaluation. JLOS brings increased coordination and cooperation among key institutions involved in the administration of justice. The framework has enhanced coherence in policy discussion and decision-making and resource allocation with the institutions involved.

Conceived as a reform initiative, the sector's mission is to improve the safety of the person, security of property, observance of human rights, and access to justice to promote growth, employment, and prosperity. Currently, the mandates of the JLOS institutions cover justice administration, maintenance of law and order, and access to justice mechanisms. The current fourth JLOS Sector Investment Plan (SDP IV, 2017-2020) is organized around 3 strategic high-level outcomes: (1) Infrastructure and access to JLOS services enhanced, (2) Observance of Human Rights and fight against corruption promoted, and (3) Commercial justice and the environment for competitiveness strengthened.

NDP III notes challenges faced by JLOS institutions relating to low levels of service delivery, corruption, limited infrastructure and slow implementation and fulfillment of international and regional human rights commitments. Given the high rates of vulnerability in the country, access to justice for vulnerable groups and poor persons is heavily reliant on legal aid, most of which is provided by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) but on a limited geographical scale and using narrow legal aid models. Weak case management builds up to various constraints across the JLOS institutions. The spill-over effect is felt also in Accountability Sector, which has the mandate to fight corruption through sanctions, investigations, and prosecutions. The current case management systems in frontline JLOS institutions (Police, Government Analytical Laboratory (GAL), Directorate of Public Prosecutions, Judiciary, Prisons) among others are overburdened, slow, and primarily completed manually for the most part. This leads to high lead times, increased cost of access, opportunistic corruption and slow decision making.

The current Technical Assistance is part of the 11th EDF Justice and Accountability Reform (JAR) Sector Reform Performance Contract (SRPC). The overall objective of the SRPC is "to contribute to the sustainable development and inclusive economic growth of Uganda". 

This activity is organized under Result 5 of the JAR project, on "Support to case management in JLOS".  Result 5 addresses the following: 

I. The institutional case management and rules and procedures that delay the disposal of cases have been reviewed.

II. The analysis and re-design of case management business processes have been completed. 

III. The proportion of records managed and stored through automated systems has been increased

IV. The design- and development phases of Integrated Information Management Systems have been completed for several JLOS institutions based on an interoperability framework

V. The supervision functions and M&E systems of JLOS institutions have been strengthened.

VI. Innovative actions for the automation of Uganda's case-management system (CMS) have been developed and implemented.

This activity falls under (VI) above. 



The Access to Justice Sub-Programme (formerly referred to as the Justice, Law and Order Sector) was set into motion twenty (20) years ago as an innovative reform program whose goal was to resolve bottlenecks in access to justice in Uganda. To achieve this mandate, JLOS has always championed innovation through its various intervention areas documented in the following Sector development/investment plans (SIPs): SIP 1 ; SIP 2 ; SIP 3 ; and currently via the Access to Justice Sub-programme strategic plan (2020 – 2025).

With the evolving work environment and emerging challenges in the access to justice delivery arena (augmented by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020), JLOS needs to continuously re-invent itself to provide solutions to problems, add value to its member institutions but perhaps most importantly create new realities and experiences for people through digital service delivery models. This specifically calls for the need to mainstream innovation as part of JLOS’ digital transformation agenda described in the e-Justice Strategy (2021- 2026). 

The Access to Justice sub-programme seeks innovative digital solutions to address the JLOS' most pressing challenges in access to justice using technology-driven mechanisms, processes, platforms, and applications. These solutions shall not only meet the current (and future) demands and challenges of justice delivery in Uganda but harness opportunities presented by new ideas, sustainable “home-grown” solutions, and emerging technologies. 

The successful innovators / vendors shall while working with front-line JLOS institutions such as the Uganda Police, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP), Courts of Judicature, Uganda Prisons Services, Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control (DCIC), Judicial Service Commission (JSC);Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC); National identification and Registration Authority (NIRA), Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and the Uganda Registration Service Bureau (URSB) design and develop innovative justice products and services around case management in JLOS through cutting-edge technologies using the human-centered design approach that takes into account the unique needs of justice actors and the general public. 

This is in line with the overall objective of SDG 16.1 – ensuring equal justice for all – by putting people and their legal needs at the center of justice systems; and JLOS’ theme of “advancing an integrated people-centered access to justice delivery system”.



The digital innovative solution in access to justice should demonstrate the ability to contribute to any of the following key JLOS focus areas:

● Strengthening access to legal aid services;

● Strengthening measures to effectively and efficiently prevent and respond to crime;

● Stakeholder empowerment and enhanced access to information;

● Promoting gender equality and equitable access to justice;

● Empowering citizens on human rights and obligations;



The expected deliverables from innovators/vendors will include.

● Concept Note, Functional Requirements Specifications and Systems Design Document & financial proposal

● Implemented innovation through a Pilot.

● Innovation completion report, highlighting lessons learned and plan/proposal for a National rollout.



This innovation fund is available to legally registered local entities based in Uganda with proven experience and pedigree working on access to justice interventions and innovative solutions in the digital space.

Euro €80,000 is available from the Justice and Accountability Reform (JAR) project to support digital innovative solution(s) that shall be selected for piloting in the JLOS (access to justice) operational environment between  August 2020 and May 2022. 

The project shall support two innovations. Each project will have a maximum budget of Euros € 40,000.



The Successful innovation(s) will be selected based on (but not limited to) the following parameters:

a) Impact: The ability of the innovation to address key JLOS focus/problem areas  described in Section 1.0 (the ability of the solution in improving access to justice, especially for the ordinary citizens in the public domain)

b) Technical ability: Ability of the applicant(s) to demonstrate technical skill, knowledge and capability to implement the proposed solution(s)  - preferably via a functional prototype

c) Scalability: the ability to scale up, evolve, and grow the innovative solution in other JLOS institutions beyond a pilot rollout

d) Cross-cutting nature of the innovation: Ability of the digital innovative solution to add value to multiple JLOS institutions and associated entities

e) Ownership: Willingness of the entity to transfer ownership of the proposed solution to the access to justice sub-program (JLOS) for further growth (upgrade), implementation, and operationalization.

f) Proven experience and pedigree working on access to justice interventions and innovative solutions in the digital space



Proposals for innovation shall be submitted in PDF format to Chiara Minelli via email (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) with a copy to Johnson Mwebaze  (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)  by October 15th, 2021 – 4:00 PM (EAT).

The duration of this activity shall be Five (5) months from the date of the award. Successful innovators shall be notified within two (02)weeks after the submission closing date.




Published: 27th September 2021

Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) play a vital role in the development of the Ugandan economy. MSMEs collectively constitute about 90% of private sector production and employ over 2,5 million people. The results of a recent survey carried out with over 1800 MSMEs in Uganda highlighted that one fifth of MSMEs have not registered, and three quarters do not have a tax identification number (NATHAN, FSD & TNS, 2015 ‘National Small Business Survey of Uganda’). Around a quarter say they do not know how to register, or that it is too complicated to do so. But registration is required in order to trade, expand and receive licenses. Hence, there is a huge opportunity to sensitize and provide these businesses with legal guidance in making their business sustainable. 

The mSMEGarage is a spin off lead by Barefoot Lawyers that provides legal services – in various stages of their development – to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Uganda. Founded by Gerald Abila and Michael Kwizera, the mSMEGarage is aiming to reach over 1000 SMEs in its first 6 months. One thing that makes them innovative, is that they leverage on Africa’s growing social media penetration and use those channels to provide legal support.

Timothy Kakuru is the Garage’s project manager, heading the operations and providing virtual assistance to its registered members through Facebook, WhatAapp and via their website. The website content is constantly being updated with new legal information on business registration, contracting, patenting, licensing, taxation or legal procedures. Users have to register in order to download template legal documents or book an appointment for a face-to-face consultation with a lawyer. In addition, four field executives - business analysts – work full time to approach small business owners at various locations in Kampala to ask about their legal needs and interest in registering for the mSMEGarage. 

One of mSMEGarage’s clients is Tambula. Tambula is a boda-boda-tracking company that launched in 2014 to increase safety and security for Kampala’s thousands of motorcycles – many of which end up in accidents or are violently mugged at night. The founders developed a new software that can track the location of their member-boda’s via geo-tagging and automatically generates reports when accidents occur through a smartphone application. 

It turns out the MSMEGarage was indispensable in making their business grow to a success. As its founder Ivan explains: “The mSMEGarage walked with us all the way through incorporation and the development of designs that could stand patent protection worldwide. With this we have been able to get a Microsoft grant of 25,000 USD and have now reached thousands more bodaboda riders in the country." Apparently, newly developed companies are in particular need of affordable legal advice which seems to be simply missing in Uganda. "A team as intelligent and versatile as at the SME garage is quite difficult to find this side of Africa, that is rooted to the ground and particularly understands the hurdles of new businesses in Uganda.” 

The mSMEGarage won second place during the Innovating Justice Awards 2015, organized by HiiL, with an investment of 20.000USD and access to HiiL’s networks and expert advice. Almost halfway down its validation phase, the Garage managed to set up its online platform, adopt materials to facilitate 295 SMEGarage-registrations in its first weeks, conduct 2 legal seminars to a big audience and provide customized legal information to dozens of its clients. “All the advice, workshops and insights from the HiiL team have been incredibly valuable, and it opened new a new world of opportunities to us” said Michael, Lead Strategy and Product Development, following a week of intensive workshops with HiiL in their office.



 mSME Garage Flyer


Published: May 21, 2016

KAMPALA - The Hague Institute for the Innovation of Law (HiiL) in partnership with the Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS) is set to hold a justice innovation product launch on 5th November 2020 via a series of webinars and online events.

Uganda is one of the most active countries regarding justice innovation and has a great amount of successes worth sharing. These successes will be supported by new data and research on formal and informal justice delivery in Uganda, which will also be presented during this event.

A second nationwide Justice Needs and Satisfaction Survey in Uganda was conducted in 2019. The event will feature these research findings of problems, resolution and people-centred impacts, as well as findings on the three most pressing problems: Land, Crime and Divorce and Separation.

Also lined for launch is a new integration of survey data with administrative and social media sources, which offers one of the most uniquely comprehensive understanding of justice from multiple perspectives. Stories from thousands of people map out the complex navigation of how people seek to get justice.

This event is a kick off of a series of webinars intended to increase capacity across the country to measure justice, visualize justice data and use it for project proposals and programming.  

Interested in participating in this event? Please REGISTER in advance. Joining the online event is free.


Published: October 30, 2020

The HiiL Innovating Justice Forum is the place where perspectives on user-The HiiL Innovating Justice Forum is the place where perspectives on user-friendly justice meet the reality: bottom up and institutional; justice entrepreneurs and courts; informal and formal justice; innovation and research.

As systems and institutions struggle to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, the demand for justice is rising. People from all over the world seek justice within their own system, but often do not succeed in solving a case. With 1 billion people facing a new and serious conflict each year and only 47 % completely or partially resolved, the need for a user-friendly justice system has never been more clear.

How effective is justice if it doesn’t solve the most pressing justice problems of people? How fair is it if it is not timely? We truly believe basic justice care for everyone is possible by supporting user-friendly justice, that is building on what actually works to solve or prevent justice problems. At the Innovating Justice Forum we bring together innovators, lawyers, judges, investors, ministers, leaders and academia to talk about developing and financing universal justice care. Together we form a people-centred justice movement to work towards the mission to achieve equal access to justice for all by 2030.

We play the justice game in a different way. We create a justice system that is accessible, affordable and people-centred. #people-centred justice.