CD-ROM in Viet Nam puts laws in citizens' hands
Ha Noi - Your Lawyer, a new CD-ROM, is making Viet Nam's laws and information on citizens' rights readily accessible, spelling out in simple language how to start a business, protect land rights and get a divorce.
As a first step, the Office of the National Assembly (ONA) is distributing copies of the CD-ROM to offices of delegates to the National Assembly in all 61 provinces, offices of provincial People's Councils, and media organizations.
Plans are underway to distribute the CD-ROM to Communal Post and Culture Service centres, which have been set up in 7,000 out of the country's 12,000 communes. One employee in each office will be trained to help people use the new resource. The project will also be putting Your Lawyer on the Internet, widening its availability and facilitating updating.
"Our purpose is to change every personal computer into a lawyer, thus bringing the law to the level of citizens, " said Nguyen Si Dung, Director of the Centre for Information, Library and Research Services of the ONA.
"The Your Lawyer CD-ROM adopts a step-by-step approach to guide the lay person through the vast array of rules, regulations and forms relevant to a multitude of day-to-day legal topics in Viet Nam, " said Edouard A. Wattez, Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme.
The initiative is an example of "e-governance," he said, using information technology to empower citizens and promote participation. "This user-friendly new resource will help citizens to know and assert their rights. It will, for instance, explain how to get a divorce, outline land rights, and specify the rules for establishing new business."
Your Lawyer deals with 12 legal areas, providing access to 250 legal documents and covering
more than 1,300 specific questions. It also provides legal forms that can be filled out directly on the computer. Users can make keyword searches in Vietnamese. Regular updates and additions will be available. Initial distribution of 1,000 copies of Your Lawyer cost only $24,000. The initiative grows out of three UNDP/the Government of Denmark-supported projects launched in 1997 to support Viet Nam's three main legal institutions: the ONA, the Supreme Peopleÿs Court and the Supreme People's Procuracy.
Common to these projects is the aim of widening access to the law for public officials and citizens. The ONA has also published Lawdata, a comprehensive CD-ROM collection of legal documents in Vietnamese. The new version contains approximately 11,000 documents and is updated weekly. The CD-ROM is now available on the ONA web site: www.na.gov.vn, and is a valuable reference for legal professionals.