'AYLA' the Bot Giving Children and Youth Access to Justice

Digital technology is changing the face of justice, making it more accessible to vulnerable members of our community such as children and youth, explains Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, Australia and New Zealand, Binaisha Kotwal

The last place a young person is likely to go when they’re in trouble with police, coping with family breakdown, violence, bullying or looking for information about subjects they can’t discuss with adults like sexting, is a lawyer.

Worried and confused, their first step, often, is to search the internet for a credible source to tell them what their rights are or how to deal with a legal problem in language they can understand.

This is where the Youth Law Australia (YLA), formerly the National Children's and Youh Law Centre steps in.

As the only national technology-based community legal centre dedicated to providing free legal education, advice, referrals and assistance to young people under 25 years, YLA offers help on everything from employment, driving, money tax and welfare to concerns about teen issues like drinking and drugs, discipline at school and domestic violence.

Sadly, YLA has been forced to turn away more than 1000 vulnerable children and young people a year because it has been overrun by a massive rise in demand for its services.

Digital technology, however, is giving critical online legal services providers like the YLA the opportunity to increase their capacity and capabilities and reach out to more vulnerable youth in need of help.

Searching for justice

More than 1.4 million of Australia’s children and youth turn to YLA every year, with enquiries streaming in via two main online platforms.

 YLA’s LawStuff website provides legal information tailored specifically to young people’s needs while LawMail gives YLA’s young clients access to full, personalised legal advice. 

LawMail has been flooded with more than a 219 per cent rise in enquiries in the past four years. The number of unique users on LawStuff has similarly escalated around 202 percent.

 Because YLA is largely volunteer-based and relies on government and community support to exist, it needed a solution that could enable it to help more children with the same level of resources.

 Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) immediately recognised that deploying smarter and faster technology could increase the efficiency of YLA’s web-based services and the number of children and young people it assists.

Accessing justice with AI and cognitive chatbots

Providing sound legal advice is incredibly time and resource-intensive.

 One of the main problems TCS and YLA faced was devising a system to free up resources used for responding to simple and repetitive legal questions, to ensure children and youth with complex and urgent legal problems were given priority.

 Given youth are the most adaptable and interactive users of technology, the instant consensus was to leverage AI and cognitive chatbots.

 Not only would this reduce the resourcing pressure on LawMail, it would also greatly enrich the user experience in having an anytime, anywhere platform. 

In sum, technology could enable YLA to help more, intervene earlier, prevent harm or illness and even save lives.

“AYLA” a Bot delivering justice

TCS developed “AYLA” a bot that could enable YLA to deliver easier and speedier access to free, quality legal information and advice.

Four chatbots were built using the IBM Watson Conversation platform; a referral bot, a triage bot, self-help bot and social media bot. These bots were then fully integrated with the Lawmail form and LawStuff website.

Referral Bot
Directs urgent legal enquiries and cases to external lawyers based on a young person’s location, issue type, urgency and their preferred method of communication (in-person, phone or email).

Triage Bot
Asks the young person questions to guide them towards the right kind of help based on their issue, needs and urgency. The Triage Bot might direct them to:

• Relevant information on LawStuff;
• The Self-Help Bot;
• LawMail; or
• The Referral Bot.

Self-Help Bot
Guides a young person to relevant information on LawStuff that answers their legal question and uses self-help tools to assist in solving a legal problem. PDFs and Word documents can be generated for the person to take away.

Social Media Bot
Integrated with the LawMail form and LawStuff website, it redirects a young person to a suitable source in case where an answer to complex questions can’t be found.

While building-in maximum security protection to guard data and prevent privacy and hacking, TCS ensured the Bots are accessible to young people on any device whether tablet, desktop or mobile and compatible with all Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Microsoft Edge versions as well as popular social media platforms that youth use most to communicate, like Facebook Messenger.

AYLA creates a richer, more engaging experience for children and young people and ensures that everyone turning to YLA gains access to the right help, when they need it. By sharing the high-level design of AYLA, TCS is hoping to help more not-for-profit organizations do what they do best - create amazing outcomes for our community.

Access to justice is a human right

Promoting a child-friendly justice system isn’t just a social cause, it’s a human right!

As part of the United Nations Global Compact Network Australia, TCS is deeply committed to using its expertise to address inequality and fulfill human rights, particularly among society’s most disadvantaged and vulnerable people.

YLA is among 7 not-for-profits in Australia with which TCS collaborated as part of our Community Innovation Program in 2017.

The program delivers more than $1 million in in-kind services every year, in areas such as application and website development, IT consulting and technology optimisation, to help not-for-profits achieve their goals for the greater good of humanity and the environment.

More details about Tata Consultancy Services’ Community Innovation Program can be found here.