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[liberationtech] Oral Wiki: a voice-based wiki system for informal justice

Yosem Companys companys at
Fri Apr 24 22:02:12 PDT 2009

Oral Wiki

a voice-based wiki system

Cindy Jeffers, Stefan Agamanolis

Blogs, wikis, and other Web 2.0 applications have become crucial tools for
capturing and sharing information in distributed organisations. However, the
power of these tools has not yet reached areas where Internet infrastructure
or literacy lag behind. Oral Wiki is a completely voice-based wiki system
that we are investigating for use in strengthening informal justice systems
in sub-Saharan Africa. It could archive case results and facilitate
information sharing between the informal and formal justice systems.

The Oral Wiki is a phone-based wiki system. It was inspired by the need for
a networking tool to strengthen informal justice systems in sub-Saharan
Africa, where conventional screen-based Web 2.0 applications are not viable
because of a lack of literacy and Internet availability.

The Oral Wiki could be used to facilitate discussion around best practice
and to establish an archive of decisions. These objectives are important as
many informal justice systems, such as the Abunzi system in Rwanda, lack a
persistent database of decisions and a forum for informal justice actors to
discuss their profession. This technology could also facilitate information
sharing between informal and formal justice systems and aims to increase
transparency and accountability in informal justice systems. By using an
Oral Wiki, informal justice actors may be able to resolve cases more quickly
and with greater consistency across a nation, which would in turn ease
tensions in communities and support reconciliation in developing areas of
the world.

The primary objectives of the Oral Wiki project are the following:

   - Build technologies that connect disadvantaged communities to emerging
   telecommunications infrastructures
   - Increase access to justice
   - Strengthen informal justice systems
   - Facilitate information sharing among informal justice actors
   - Facilitate information sharing between the informal and formal justice
   - Facilitate more efficient and transparent informal justice systems
   - Create archives of decisions made in informal justice systems
   - Generate awareness around oral societies' technological needs

 In September and October of 2008 we met with informal justice actors called
Abunzi, in Rubavu District, East Province and Kirehe District, West Province
in Rwanda. They repeatedly expressed a need for a network on which to
discuss best practice. It was from these meetings that we set out to create
a technology to connect the Abunzi.

The Oral Wiki would store audio recordings of Abunzi decisions. It would
provide record, playback, tagging and commenting functionalities akin to
those found in conventional wikis. It would be accessible by phone and
Internet and would enable the ranking of decisions made by Abunzi. Abunzi
and the formal justice system would each need to play a vital role in the

The technology would also be available online for participants with access
to Internet such as those in government. The Internet interface would
provide for a smooth transition to an online setting once an Internet
infrastructure is in place in Rwanda.

Our proposed technological solution is based on the notion that working at
the community level might help bring two people together, which could in
turn bring reconciliation to communities where informal justice is key to
the social fabric. Informal justice actors have an expertise and
understanding of the challenges their fellow citizens face. They have a
wealth of knowledge to offer their fellow citizens, their governments, and
the world. In post-conflict countries their work assists in moving people
away from conflict by offering a forum for reconciliation. For these reasons
informal justice actors should be given the means to share and archive their


Cindy Jeffers and Stefan Agamanolis, *An Oral Wiki to Support Informal
Justice Systems*, *Proceedings of IST-Africa 2009*, 6 - 9 May 2009, Uganda.

Cindy Jeffers and Stefan Agamanolis, *The Abunzi Technology: Oral Web 2.0*,
*Design Connexity Eighth International Conference of the European Academy of
Design*, 1 - 3 April 2009, Aberdeen, UK.


Learn more about the Oral Wiki at
>From the UK, call 0141 416 5206 for a demonstration of the Oral Wiki.
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