Everywhere you look, it’s a rush to digitize and all things data-oriented.
Thank heavens, then, for insightful draft guidelines by Patricia Hughes, in relation to the use of technology in advancing access to justice.
Hughes — the founding executive director of the Law Commission of Ontario — created the guidelines in order to ensure that, in the push for digitization, society’s most marginalized do not get left behind.
“If you’ve assumed that these technological mechanisms are allowing those people to access whatever they need, these people are going to be left behind even more,” she told Law Times.
“Perpetuating the digital divide is a problem.”
In her guidelines, Hughes sagely writes about improving the goal of improving “access to justice, not only access to the legal system, for individuals who are otherwise excluded through socio-economic factors such as race, gender, economic status, disability, place of residence or other similar reason.”
I think Hughes is right on the money.
For example, the guidelines stress the need to consider technology not solely in terms of technical elements such as hardware or software but also its design and how people actually use it.
“Any point along the continuum of designing, developing, implementing, applying and using technology can result in marginalized individuals being excluded from its benefit,” she says.
People seek lawyers for their expertise and knowledge, and offering online services will not necessarily close the gap when it comes to providing informed, contextual care to clients.
While useful, mere availability of knowledge does not a lawyer create.