Nairobi, 5th July 2011 – Kenyans now have free online access to debates from the Hansards, a collection of debates that date back to the pre-independence Legislative Council. The earliest edition of the Hansard indexed is the Report of the Fourth Session of the Debates of the Legislative Council, dated 24th November, 1959.
Until now, these records have only been available to the public in hard copy as part of the public records of the Kenya National Assembly and the Kenya National Archives. Today, anyone around the world can now browse the Hansard online. Over 1750 editions can now be accessed and perused by the public, including historians and students.
“The initiative will enhance the capacity of the National Council for Law Reporting to manage and distribute public legal information, and to provide free public access to legacy legal information on a user-friendly interface,” said Mr. Michael Murungi, CEO and Editor of the National Council for Law Reporting. “It will helps us develop and implement an open, technology-neutral standard for the management of current and future public legal information.”
Denis Gikunda, Google Localization Manager for Africa explained: “Not only are the records of great historical value, but they are also a rich research resource, providing insight into, for example, how an issue like majimbo has been addressed through time, or to verify a particular Member of Parliament’s position on an issue. The initiative to digitize the Hansards is part of our continuing partnership with the National Council for Law Reporting (NCLR) and the Kenya National Assembly. We welcome interest from other government departments in the region who are similarly keen to make government content more accessible to their citizens.”
The debates that Kenyans will be able to access include:
Kenyans will also be able to confirm whether their MPs have spoken in Parliament about issues directly affecting them.
Since 2007, the Kenya National Assembly has been digitizing its proceedings and providing free access to them through its website www.parliament.go.ke. The National Council for Law Reporting, in conjunction with the Kenya National Assembly, converted all pre-2007 records into digital documents, and used Google’s unique indexing and search engine technology to provide access and a platform that makes it easy to search and browse, while retaining the record’s original look and feel.
This initiative, Open Access to Public Legal Information, is aimed at improving access to public information. While Article 35 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 establishes the citizen’s right of access to public information, actual access remains limited. The records of the Hansard and the Gazette can be accessed online at: www.kenyalaw.org, www.parliament.go.ke and www.google.co.ke.
This announcement comes after the digitization of over 100 years of the Kenya Gazette in April 2011, with historical copies dating back to 1906, for free, via Google Books. Other recent examples of Google’s ongoing global efforts to bring historical and cultural heritage online include partnerships with Yad Vashem, the Jerusalem-based archive of Holocaust materials, with 17 of the world’s most famous art museums, through the Google Art Project, and with many libraries that hold rare collections. In March this year, Google also announced a grant of $2.5million to digitize Nelson Mandela’s and Desmond Tutu’s archives.
The National Council for Law Reporting (NCLR) is a state corporation under the Judiciary. Its mandate is to publish the Kenya Law Reports (which are Kenya’s official reports of the decisions of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and the High Court of Kenya), to revise and publish the Laws of Kenya and to publish such other related publications.
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