The National Council for Law Reporting (Kenya Law) is a semi-autonomous Kenyan state corporation with the mandate to revise, consolidate and publish the Laws of Kenya. The Laws of Kenya department undertakes the revision, consolidation and updating of the Laws of Kenya which include both national and county legislation.
What challenges were you faced with prior to working with Laws.Africa?
The previous software used by Kenya Law’s legislation team required editors to re-write legislation using complicated XML tags, which had unrealistic proficiency requirements of legal copy editing and technical knowledge of XML.
The legacy system was limited and rigid and had a number of drawbacks which made it difficult and time-consuming to work with:
- no ability to preview work during XML editing;
- no automation for common tasks, such as pagination of output PDF documents;
- a very manual amendment process that made applying amendments to existing Acts error-prone and slow; and
- lack of templating for the various aspects of different types of legislation.
In addition, the system had a limited capacity to produce PDFs (requiring manual pagination and page sizing) and other output formats such as for use on web and mobile.
Why did you choose to work with Laws.Africa?
Laws.Africa presented an opportunity for Kenya Law to own the project as they customised the Indigo Platform to suit the structure and unique requirements of Kenyan legislation. This inclusion of Kenya’s legislative tradition has made editing of the laws of Kenya easy and enjoyable. The customization process was interactive and there was a feedback mechanism to ensure that the system met the needs of Kenya Law.
Laws.Africa provided full support for system installation, migration and integration with our website. They worked closely with the Kenya Law ICT and Research & Development departments to provide strategic advice to improve system stability and efficiency. This included the adoption of open source software, improved documentation, and advice on additional supporting software.
How has Laws.Africa helped you achieve your overall strategy?
Laws.Africa’s legislation database platform is user-friendly, fast and easy to use. The Kenya Law team is now able to publish new and updated legislation almost in real-time, which our readers appreciate. It also saves the team time and allows them to focus on other tasks such as reading legislation, making it more useful to end users, improving the online experience and establishing new partnerships.
It has also enabled Kenya Law to focus on the important task of law consolidation in order to produce an Annual Supplement, which was last produced in 1995. An annual Supplement is an official publication which contains the revised and newly enacted statutes that compromise the Laws of Kenya in a given year.
What is the business impact this enables?
Faster updates: Legislation updates would previously take from 14 days to two months or more, depending on the complexities of the statute. With Laws.Africa, we have reduced this significantly to 3-5 days. This is possible because the platform is fast and easy to use, and we are not restricted by seat-based licensing: we can have as many legislation editors as we need with no cost implications.
Easier updates: The Indigo Platform readily supports very large acts and complex statutes, running to hundreds of sections and pages. The Kenya Law editing team can focus on document content and structure, and not worry about formatting, which is applied automatically.
Improved research capabilities: Automation helps to ensure high quality documents and identify law reform issues. Rich information can be exported to Excel for further analysis.
Improved outputs: The Indigo platform has customised templates that retain the same look and feel of the Kenyan legislative print tradition, both in print and online. This has a number of benefits:
- The templates ensure that formatting is applied consistently and correctly across all documents and outputs.
- Automatically generated, high quality, print-ready PDF outputs for print supplements and archival purposes.
- The web version of statutes on the Kenya Law website are enriched to include additional features that make the text easier to read and understand.
- Automatically generated comparisons between amended versions of a statute highlight differences between versions.
Better supporting and licensing: The previous system was a mix of custom software and commercial, off the shelf desktop software. The custom software was no longer being developed or supported, and the desktop software required expensive per-seat licenses. The Indigo Platform is cloud-based (no desktop software required), is continuously improved and updated, includes training and support, is open source, and does not have restrictive per-seat licensing.
What are you able to do now that was not possible before?
Laws.Africa’s software and support has improved our processes and widened our scope:
- Support a variety of legislation types with different metadata and formatting requirements.
- Support sub-national (county) and regional (East African) legislation.
- Produce an editorial manual that contains guidelines and recommendations on how to edit legislation based on common structural patterns, including how to handle edge cases and exceptions.
- Focus on content and not XML markup.
- Be standards compliant with the widely used Akoma Ntoso XML legislative document standard.
- Easily manage multiple amended versions of a statute.
- Improved tables and images.
- Manage changes with automatic versioning and version restore.
- Save time with the built-in task and workflow support.
It has also allowed us to improve our outputs and user experience:
- Publish legislation automatically on the Kenya Law website in multiple formats.
- Markup new and updated legislation in days, not weeks.
- Produce multiple output formats automatically from one source of truth.
- Form partnerships to enrich the user experience and help readers to find, understand and work with Kenya’s legislation.
- Provide automatic linking within and between documents.
How has this helped you to meet the needs of your users?
The public are the primary consumers of the law, since it is written to serve the citizens of a country first. We are now able to provide our users with up-to-date laws more quickly, with better consistency, and with a greater scope.
Our research and development capabilities have been improved. For example, we can more easily provide comparative analyses for academia, and identify law reform issues faster. Greater efficiency allows more time for the team to provide additional value-add services, such as legislative briefs and summaries.
How will this help your department respond to future opportunities and challenges?
Our users, and their needs, are growing. Working with Laws.Africa will help us to address these needs, remain efficient, and scale the work of Kenya Law.
We are better placed to support greater research and analysis, and effectively convey rich information to our users through charts and interactive elements.
We are more able to form partnerships with various government bodies and private entities in order to address their needs and those of their audiences. In turn, this provides us with the ability to generate an income for Kenya Law by providing premium services.