All Projects

Increasing access to legal information in South Africa

Democratic Governance and Rights Unit (DGRU)

Country South Africa 

Support £65,000

Country Engagement Developer Deborah Byrne

In partnership with This is one of six practitioner research projects that is part of the Learning to Make All Voices Count project, coordinated by Global Integrity.
“ICT has become the most effective way to disseminate information in a globally connected world, but there is a digital divide that straddles urban and rural life in South Africa.”
Start date
September 2016
End date
July 2017
Period: 11 months


Many South Africans lack access to legal information. The government has failed to make it widely available, especially in rural areas and townships.

Under South Africa’s third OGP Country Action Plan, there are two commitments that may help tackle this issue. Commitment 5 focuses on institutionalising community advice offices (CAOs), which provide paralegal services in rural areas, and Commitment 6 pilots an open data portal that aims to make information available in a standard, accessible format.

But questions remain about the most technologically efficient way of providing legal resources to citizens, and about the government’s record of engagement with civil society stakeholders on OGP implementation.


DGRU contributes to the fulfilment of Commitment 5 by resourcing CAOs. It has developed a mobile app – Pocket Law – with the aim of providing CAOs with relevant, usable and practical information. Pocket Law harvests legal information from digital platforms and other sources and makes them available in an offline mode.

The practitioner research component of this project will provide an evidence-based narrative of how implementation of South Africa's OGP commitments is evolving. It aims to

  • document the information resources CAOs use to resolve complaints, including how they uses Pocket Law. It will also ensure that it is compatible with the evolving open data portal being developed under Commitment 6, and build the capacity of CAOs to use it effectively to meet the need of their communities to access justice.
  • monitor and understand intragovernmental coordination and civic engagement around the development of the open data portal.

By the end of the project, the CAOs that participated should have greater access to legal resources. DGRU also expects to see that the government agencies they work with collaborate to put legal information on the open data portal.

Related projects

View all projects


The DGRU is an applied research unit within the Public Law Department at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. It is primarily concerned with the relationship between rights and governance, focusing on the intersection between public administration and the challenge of public accountability, and the realisation of constitutionally enshrined human rights.

The other projects that are partners in Learning to Make All Voices Count are:

  • Monitoring and supporting the Kenyan Government to achieve its OGP commitments (CRECO, Kenya)
  • Universities and knowledge partnerships for open government (DLSU, the Philippines)
  • Deepening meaningful civil society and local government partnerships in the OGP (InciteGov, the Philippines)
  • Assessing the utilisation of e-planning and e-budgeting of sub-national governments in Indonesia (Prakarsa, Indonesia)
  • Evaluating and shaping the OGP's engagement in Tanzania (Oxfam / Tamasha, Tanzania)
  • Learning to make all voices count (Global Integrity, USA)



Read a blog about the first Learning to Make All Voices Count workshop here, and watch Nkosikulule Nyembezi of DGRU discuss what he took away from the event.

On 7-8 November 2016, DGRU partnered with Juta and Company to host a workshop on Free Access to Law workshop, which focused among other things OGP commitments to access to information. Two senior government officials spoke of access to legal information as a constitutional imperative situated within the right to information and citizen participation.



Related Blogs