Lawyers, tech enthusiasts, academics, entrepreneurs, innovators and students converged at the Innovation Village in Ntinda, Kampala, on Thursday, the 1st August, to participate in the World Legal Summit.
The World Legal Summit (WLS) is an initiative designed to bring together the legal and technology industries in worldwide collaboration towards a globally sustainable future.
The first ever WLS, attracted participants from thirty cities all over the world, including: Sydney, Buenos Aires, Montreal, Toronto, Paris, Munich, Milan, The Hague, Madrid, New York among others. Through the use of a digital conferencing platform known as VirBELA, participants were able to attend, interact and contribute to the WLS in other jurisdictions.
In Uganda, the summit was hosted by Katende Ssempebwa and Co. Advocates (KATS) in conjunction with the Innovation Hub.
Sim Katende, a Partner and the Head of the Corporate department at KATS warned that legal professionals cannot cocoon themselves and pretend that technology will not catch up with them.
This was re-echoed by Alice Namuli Blazevic, Head of the AI and the Block Chain department at the Firm, who emphasized that the future is already here and therefore, lawyers have to constantly equip themselves with the skills to remain relevant in spite of the disruption that technology is bound to bring about.
The deliberations at the WLS focused on three key areas: identity and personal governance, autonomous machines as well as cyber security and data protection. Some of the technological advancements that are already being felt include the digital platforms like Fintechs and mobile money which are already disrupting the banking sector. Ms. Shamirah Kimbugwe, the Country Manager of Cellulant, compared banks and regulators to tortoises and Fintechs to race cars. It was noted that there is a big gap in terms of regulation of Fintechs and this poses a risk of crimes like fraud and money laundering. To its credit, the Ugandan Government is actively addressing this lacuna in the law and there is a bill in the offing, to wit, the National Payment Systems Bill. Noelle Van der Waag-Cowling, while making a presentation on cyber security and data protection panel stated that, in the 21st century, data is the new ‘oil’ .
Other speakers and panelists included lawyers from some of the local firms in Uganda, tech entrepreneurs, as well as people from the academia. The Summit, being the first of its kind to be hosted in an innovation village indicates the apparent radical shift from conservative practice of law and embraces innovation, not only in legal practice but also in entrepreneurship.