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Paul Wababu: Meru University Student Behind Kenya’s First Legal Services App That Understands Sheng, Swahili

Paul Wababu is a full-stack engineer and a fourth year student studying computer science at Meru University.

He created Sheria Mkononi, Kenya’s first AI lawyer, which is designed to provide advanced legal services to Kenyans, especially those who cannot afford legal services and do not understand English.

The AI is equipped with advanced technology that can process vast amounts of legal data in real time, providing accurate legal advice within seconds and handling complex legal cases with ease.

The mind blowing invention is designed to understand multiple languages, including Swahili, making it accessible to clients from different regions of Kenya and beyond.

WoK held an exclusive interview with Wababu of the AI and discussed among other things his inspiration behind it and advice to innovators who are looking to create technologies that can address social and economic challenges.

The App

Sheria Mkononi uses the OpenAI model GPT-turbo to process legal data in real time and provide legal advice within seconds.

The AI lawyer also has the ability to provide a solid defense for even the most complex legal cases, making it an ideal choice for clients seeking reliable and efficient legal services.

It may also be used by prosecutors when forming a case against someone. It speaks fluent Swahili and can understand even Sheng and some bits of different mother tongues.

“The model however needed to be fine-tuned in order to make it better suited for Kenyans and so I worked with my sister who is a lawyer to help me fine-tune the responses

“I also needed a dataset that contains sample interactions, that’s why the model can speak in the Kenyan tone; mixing English and Kiswahili or plain Kiswahili/English,” Wababu explained.

The AI lawyer can provide legal services in areas such as criminal law, family law, contract law and property law.

“It can also draft law documents like a cease and desist letter and basically any type of law document. It can also be used by prosecutors when they want to form a case against someone so that it’s easier to get the criminals incriminated,” Wababu told WoK.

Wababu notes that he was inspired to create Sheria Mkononi by limitations preventing Kenyans from accessing affordable legal services.

“I observed that the traditional legal system had several limitations and inefficiencies that prevented people, particularly those who could not afford legal services or did not understand English, from accessing affordable and accessible legal services

“Additionally, after watching the recent Tea farmers BBC expose, I realized that such a system would be incredibly useful, as many people in Kenya lack access to the legal system,” he said.

The developer said that beneficiaries of the AI are individuals who cannot afford legal services and do not understand English, as well as prosecutors who may need assistance in forming a case against someone.

“The creator may plan to reach these individuals through various channels, including social media, partnerships with community organizations, and outreach programs

“I plan to reach them through various channels, including social media, partnerships with legal aid organizations, and outreach programs in rural areas,” he said.

Wababu also explained how AI lawyers such as his and other legal technologies can transform the legal industry.

He said they can help increase access to legal services, reduce the cost of legal services, and improve the efficiency of legal processes.

“AI lawyers can provide a more consistent and objective approach to legal decision-making. It will also keep the lawyers in check because in the back of their minds, they will know that such a system is coming and they would need to be top-notch all time in order to not get replaced,” he added.

While someone might wonder, how does the AI lawyer handle complex legal cases that require human judgment and discretion?

Wababu said; Sheria Mkononi uses a combination of advanced algorithms and human expertise to handle complex legal cases that require human judgment and discretion

“The system can analyze vast amounts of legal data and provide accurate legal advice, but in cases where human judgment is required, the system refers the case to a team of human lawyers who provide the necessary expertise, though not yet implemented as that will need partnerships with various lawyers.”

Further, Wababu noted that he has taken several steps to ensure that the AI lawyer complies with legal and ethical standards.

This includes implementing advanced security measures to protect user data and complying with all applicable data privacy laws and regulations

“We also don’t save interactions with the bot to ensure your privacy is respected in complex cases. I also have a data controller license which further shows my commitment to securing your data,” he said.

Among his main challenges was to get the model to talk in a Kenyan tone.

“Large language models are unpredictable and so, in order to fine-tune such a model, you need a large dataset of the various desired output formats. Also, fine-tuning your own model costs money,” Wababu said.

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