When I first learned about “LII-in-a-Box,” a new legal information service developed by the African Legal Information Institute, I thought it might provide a stand-alone information system that could operate independent of the internet. I thought it might be something that would alleviate poor and intermittent internet connections that make access to online information difficult in under-served communities and countries. Honestly though, what really came to mind was the LibraryBox Project that Jason Griffey has been championing for a number of years now.

LibraryBox is an “open source wifi file sharing device” that consists of a router, a USB drive and some software to make it work. It’s described on the main project website as a “portable digital file distribution tool based on inexpensive hardware that enables delivery of educational, healthcare, and other vital information to individuals off the grid.” Could it be used to distribute legal information? I don’t see why not.

The “LII-in-a-Box” idea is a project of the AfricanLII and appears as a component of their mandate since the LII was founded in 2010. It’s an idea that does a great job of supporting their primary goal to “promote Free Access to Law and Open Justice in Africa” and it facilitates the development of other Legal Information Institutes in Africa.

As noted in their introduction, “most African countries suffer from shortages of IT skills, fast and accessible links to the Internet core, as well as reliable service providers offering advanced hardware for hosting solutions.” The “LII-in-a-Box” aims to solve this problem by providing a turnkey solution that enables “free law publishing projects, usually small entrepreneurial bootstrapped start-ups, to concentrate their initial efforts and resources on delivering much needed sustainable access to the law.”

The Africa Technology & Information Institute provided funding for this project making it possible for the AfricanLII to,

 “… produce a packaged software solution allowing for an easy installation of a localized legal information system. This solution will assist institutions that are not necessarily skilled in the specialized field of legal information systems to deploy and successfully maintain such systems with minimal or no further support from AfricanLII.”

The “LII-in-a-Box” is also an open source venture so it seems possible that someone could morph this into a LibraryBox-esque type project creating something that might be called a “LII-in your-Pocket.”

The specific details of wifi distribution would need to be worked out but LII users could access the legal information collection whenever they were within a reasonable proximity of the “LII-in-a-LibraryBox” implementation.

Updates to the Box could occur whenever a stable internet connection was detected, but a core set of documents would always be accessible to LII users. This set up is reminiscent too of the Occupy “darknet” developed in 2011 that created a “collective network infrastructure … owned and controlled by its users.”

So could a combination of the “LII-in-a-Box,” the LibraryBox and the Occupy darknet lead to the creation of a “LII-in-your-pocket”? Not sure. But however you might spin it the “LII-in-a-Box” is a project worth investigating.


  1. Tim, I picked this up via an alert the other day. I currently lead AfricanLII.
    Thank you very much for noticing our new development. We have not been great at communicating progress, but this will change in the new year.
    Interesting that you should mention LII-in-a-Pocket. We are currently developing, in parallel to the LII-in-a-Box, a product called Pocket Law – essentially a LII-in-a-Box installed on a USB stick. We are about a month away from shipping to the first users – 20 or so judges from southern Africa.
    I do know of the Library Box (and agree completely with you that it does offer a potential solution to the last mile problems many public legal institutions in Africa face. It is a matter of limited time and resources that we have not yet tested it ourselves, but this is something surely on the cards! Will keep you posted. But please do feel free to get in touch if you think we should be speaking to someone over at Library Box earlier.

  2. Hi Mariya! Very interested to learn that you are considering a “Pocket Law” service. I have meant to test some sort of LibraryBox project but haven’t had a chance to do so yet either. Yes, please keep me posted about your experiments in this area; it all sounds like a fantastic initiative.