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Case Studies

Mercy Corps Bolivian Project

Use: Land Access & Ownership in Bolivia.

Use: Land Access & Ownership in Bolivia.

Mercy Corps, an international organisation, partnered with Fundación Tierra to launch a project in seven target communities in Bolivia in 2009 [Beqiraj and McNamara, 2014]. This aimed to address land access and ownership issues in Bolivia where only 37% of the nations land had been formally titled [Land Links, 2013]. Landlessness is a key indicator of poverty in Bolivia where 83% of the rural of the population live below the poverty line [Land Links, 2013].

The project utilised SMS technology to allow these rural communities to access mobile phones to send GPS co-ordinates to map their respective land boundaries [Beqiraj and McNamara, 2014].

The project operated using (Thompson Reuters?) OpenTitle, which collected the data provided by the local populations to easily digitise land records through a variety of types of information such as aerial imagery and GPS boundary readings [Viscarra, 2012. p5]. The project staff could then geo-reference and input co-ordinates allowing property titles to be correctly mapped [Viscarra, 2012. p5]

Once the land boundaries had been recorded, communities could gather to view the digital map and discuss their boundaries [Beqiraj and McNamara, 2014]. This saved the project staff time through its easy to use interface, reduced costs and allowed for third party application integration [Viscarra, 2012. pp6-7]. According to Program Manager Marcelo Viscarra, ‘the use of technology has allowed us to reduce the time and cost needed to document rights’ [Land Links, 2013]. In comparison to not using technology, the project greatly increased efficiency outright and this was enhanced by the quality of the technology deployed for the user and staff.

Another distinct advantage is that the project had reduced costs and litigation, however, issues included levels of computer literary and irregular mobile phone service for the rural populations [Beqiraj and McNamara, 2014].

Levels of computer literacy and other accessibility issues are also directly applicable in the UK. The most vulnerable in society often have the greatest needed for access to justice, yet these groups are the least able to do so. For example, vulnerable users may live in a remote area and have a disability meaning they cannot reach face-to-face services easily. The major challenges of reaching rural users (less funding, difficulty of recruiting staff, travelling to offices, technological access, digital illiteracy) “raises questions of the extent to which internet/mobile technologies can mitigate this gap” (The Law Society 2017, p.61). The Bolivian project addressed rural accessibility issues by utilising a user friendly and toll-free support line [Beqiraj and McNamara, 2014]. Replicating the projects framework, (a base legal tech platform with a support telephone line) could be an effective way to reach rural and/or vulnerable users in the UK.

References

1. Beqiraj, J, and McNamara, L, ‘International Access to Justice: Barriers and Solutions’ (Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law Report 02/2014) International Bar Association, 2014.

2. Land Links, ‘Mercy Corps Utilising Technology to Increase Efficiency in Documenting Bolivian Property Rights’ (2013) https://www.land-links.org/2013/05/mercy-corps-utilizing-technology-to-increase-efficiency-in-documenting-bolivian-property-rights/ (Date Accessed: 10/05/2020)

3. The Law Society, Capturing Technological Innovation in Legal Services, (2017)

4. Viscarra, Marcelo, ‘Indigenous Communities’ Property Rights: Initiative in Bolivia’ (2012) 8th FIG Regional Conference 2012.

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