A Zimbabwean non-profit promoting human rights and access to justice, Legal Resources Foundation (LRF), has released a WhatsApp chatbot that provides legal advice. The chatbot provides information on maintenance legal issues, domestic violence, inheritance, and children’s rights and can be access by anyone free of charge.
The chatbot was launched this week. LRF has named the bot Simba, a common Shona name which means “Strength”, or in other contexts, “Power”.
According to LRF the aim of the chatbot is to provide legal information to Zimbabweans from the comfort of their home. It seeks to empower people to navigate through the justice system. The chatbot is menu-driven but also allows users to type in legal questions. The LRF has said the more the bot is used the more useful it becomes because it learns and becomes smarter from the questions that people ask it.
This is significant because the use of WhatsApp is quite extensive locally. The majority of Zimbabweans have at least some access to a smartphone that has WhatsApp. It is especially important given the country’s economic situation and the fact that the wider internet (websites and general apps) are increasingly unaffordable for many.
According to Zimbabwe’s telecoms regulator, POTRAZ, in the first 3 months of 2020 WhatsApp usage constituted
40.5% of all mobile internet data usage in the country. WhatsApp usage alone was even bigger than YouTube, Facebook and Twitter combined.