Qweri was selected for the online management and publishing of the most commonly referred to version of the laws of the Seychelles, the Grey Book. The collection contains 80 consolidated statutes made accessible on the SeyLII website. Qweri’s capacity to enable quick and easy consolidation and updating of the content, and to generate both an HTML 5 version of the statutes for easy browsing and searching and an ePub version for offline use, was a driving force behind the decision.
Attorneys and court officials in the Seychelles were having a hard time maintaining and keeping up-to-date the official multi-volume reference edition of the Seychelles’ legislation. Practitioners and judges had to rely on a combination of loose-leaf Gazette publications and some “unofficial” revised volumes, made available in hard copy only and at high cost. The lack of reliable access to current legislation had been identified as a significant contributing factor creating obstacles in advising clients and managing proceedings, leading to delays in delivering judgments, perpetuating backlogs and hampering development initiatives. This context led to the compilation of the legislation into a single volume that could be carried into and beyond the courtroom with ease: the Grey Book.
SeyLII chose to create an electronic version of the Grey Book. The consolidation included 80 pieces of primary legislation (including the Civil and Penal Codes), with their associated statutory instruments. The ability to access the Grey Book as an offline resource was particularly important for the client because bandwidth remains relatively costly and free WiFi is not yet widely available in the Seychelles. Courtrooms in the new courthouse have the capacity for wireless connections, but are not yet generally connected to the internet. If court officials and those who appear before them can work from a shared electronic resource, even when offline, the efficiency and utility of court hearings could be dramatically improved.
Qweri was chosen for the online management and publishing of the Grey Book, which would now be renamed the e-Grey Book. Qweri takes as input the most universally used authoring format (MS-Word) and transforms it into a fully interactive web version. This makes it easy to browse and work with complex documents, such as legislation. Users can access the e-Grey Book’s index page through a link from the SeyLII website. From there, there are options to browse the table of contents of individual legislation pages online, to search within them, to print or to download the whole Book in PDF or ePub format. All options are provided by SeyLII for free.
Qweri’s interfaces rely on responsive design techniques in order to optimize mobile user experience. Mobile users represent a large percentage of overall use in many African countries; therefore, mobile usability requirements were considered a design priority.
For this project, Lexum designed a MS-Word template (.dot) to be used by SeyLII to continuously consolidate the statutes forming part of the Grey Book. The template employs MS-Word styles to tag documents’ structure. Once the raw consolidated statutes were formatted with the MS-Word template, they were simply uploaded to Qweri and disseminated online. Integration of MS-Word appeared particularly well suited for a small-scale publisher, such as SeyLII. An approach relying on MS-Word as an authoring tool helps avoid the need to acquire specialized legislative drafting software, which in turn significantly reduces initial and ongoing costs.
Project stakeholders also particularly value Qweri’s annotation feature, enabling users to take personal notes in statutes and keep them accessible and useful across versions.
We have been consistently impressed by the stability and reliability of the platform and the support and patience of Lexum’s staff in guiding us to develop, upload and maintain our content. The quality of this product has been SeyLII’s best advertisement in seeking further funding and partnership opportunities.
– Jessica Kerr, Magistrate at Judiciary of Seychelles
Lexum hosts Qweri together with all published content. The web pages, however, take on the look and feel of the SeyLII website and are available behind a sub-domain created by the client for this purpose. Thus, from a user experience point of view, the e-Grey Book remains an integral part of the SeyLII website.
The e-Grey Book has been designed for both online and offline use. This offline capacity is particularly important for the Seychelles, where tablets and smartphones are becoming ubiquitous, but WiFi access is still relatively limited and costly. With WiFi not yet available in courtrooms, it has been possible to store the entire e-Grey Book (and other key legislation resources) on tablets provided to judges.
The popularity the e-Grey Book has been very encouraging, with 1,900 unique visits to the index page in the first three months, more than half of which were made by returning visitors. In this same period, the resource was accessed from 65 countries and at least 134 people accessed it directly from their mobiles. Individual legislation pages were downloaded more than 600 times, and nearly 150 users downloaded the entire e-Grey Book in ePub format. Since its launch, the e-Grey Book’s usage has been growing steadily.