Attorney Grace Gichanga has come up with, a chatbot, Pro Se Legal, that will dispense practical legal advice to ordinary South Africans via social media platforms.

Founded on the principle of inclusivity, Pro Se Legal – set to go live in February on a pay per use basis – was created using an artificial intelligence machine that decodes and processes language even when sentences are not written out in full, says a report in The Sunday Independent.

The idea of the chatbot came after Gichanga heard her colleagues complain about the lack of available information on common legal matters such as death, divorces, child maintenance or how to go about getting a protection order.

She realised that many people needed this information at their fingertips.

‘From the numerous legal information sessions that I staged with cleaners at work and many more in various community centres, I realised that many more people could be in need of the same information that can empower them and give them insight on the law,’ the 34-year-old is quoted as saying.

The chatbot targets women, the youth and people in rural communities as those are often the most vulnerable and excluded when it comes to accessing the justice system, said Gichanga.

On launch, information will be available only in English and eventually in all 11 official languages to ensure easy access to the communities that desperately need the information in their mother tongue.

The chatbot works off chat platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger because almost everybody chats on these platforms these days, so this allows us to give step-by-step guidelines on how to deal with whatever it is that one needs,’ she said.

Full report in The Sunday Independent (subscription needed)