Workshop on the legal and regulatory archives of Open Development Cambodia

In Phnom Penh on 21 October 2020, Open Development Cambodia (ODC) conducted a workshop on the legal and regulatory archives of Open Development Cambodia. The workshop aimed to improve the user experience of ODC’s “Legal documents” section.

Workshop, participants came from varying backgrounds. Some were from civil society organizations and others were legal students and international studies student from Royal University of Law and Economics (RULE) and Royal University of Phnom Penh. They had common agendas to help improve the legal and regulatory layout of ODC’s website.

Supporting free and open data, the legal documents section of the website helps users to find relevant official documents including international and national laws, royal decrees (preah reach kret), sub-decrees (anu-kret), ministerial order or proclamations (prakas), decisions (sech kdei Samrach), circulars (sarachor), and local regulations. Unfortunately, the section has some usability issues in terms of organization, navigation, finding documents, and information gaps. Thus, the workshop aims to achieve two essential objectives. First, ODC wanted to introduce the legal document page and guide participants on using it to search and download legal documents available on the platform. Second, ODC wanted to learn about participants’ needs and gather inputs on how the legal documents section could be enhanced, particularly by identifying missing information and relevant topics.

The workshop began with welcoming remarks by ODC. Mr. Thy Try, Executive Director/Editor-in-Chief of ODC gave a very warm welcome to all participants.  Try, “ODC has been working to discover and arrange all existing legal documents into a one stop open data platform and data-hub since 2011,” he told them. These legal documents are not limited to a specific area or certain category of law, but aim to include all available laws in Cambodia. He continued, “The law section in ODC will assist students, researchers, and all relevant stakeholders to find legal documents more comfortably and conveniently, reducing time-consumed on searches.” Researchers should be allocated their times to analysis instead of spending more time on searches of data collections. The workshop provided participants with an overview of how to access ODC’s content in general, and more specifically, the legal document section.

Ms. Sin Kim Sean, a Deputy Chief of Party and Grants Manager at East-West Management Institute’s Program on Cambodian Civil Society Strengthening (CCSS), also gave opening remarks. Ms. Kim Sean, said “ODC is one of the first websites in Cambodia that contains laws and data various field of research ranging from the environment, development issues, the economy, politics, and more contemporary issues in Cambodia, such as COVID-19.” Ms. Kim Sean noted that ODC has made significant contributions and take parts in facilitating access to information in a variety of ways, for instance, in the collection of legal documents discussed in this workshop.  “By knowing the issues in the legal documents section, we are able to make a contribution through our action which is very important for improving the platform”, she added.  

Mr. Vong Pisith gave a brief overview of the ODC legal section. Participants were given a small quiz regarding the search of legal documents on ODC. This quiz intended to understand the common user behaviors in searching for legal documents online, to identify the common challenges and to collect user requirements on UI/UX and functionalities for enhancing the laws page.

Mr. Sam An Mardy asked questions to the participants. The ODC team invited participants voluntarily to share their experiences of the searches.

One participant, he mentioned that “I mostly access or research the law through a laptop, but in the cases I am in a rush, I prefer mobile. The challenges in searching on the ODC website is the lack of legal documents for the sub-national level, specifically, the law on the fisher community as well as draft laws.

Another participant shared her experience “Law research is what I have been working on every day, however, certain legal information cannot be accessed on online.” She mostly refers to the ODC section for documents, variously associations, and related ministries. She added, online searching allows the user to search and find relevant law easier, but the challenges currently are to find draft laws and amended laws. Therefore, she recommends that “ODC should regulate law document by category or field.

After the sharing by participants, Mr. Vong Pisith, officially introduced people in more depth to ODC’s website and law page. He said, “Most people cannot access to all laws and other legal documents because some of new legal documents are not available and accessible online.” He said that the event was hoping to gain feedback to improve the legal page.

On the ODC website, contents are arranged under three main topics heading of Environment and Land, Economy, and People. The law documents vary by sector and topic.

To facilitate searching, ODC categorizes law documents based on document types such as law, draft, Anu-kret, and so on. The ODC law page has an “Additional Information” element attached to every document consisting of brief information on the law. Users are able to find both English and Khmer documents on the website.

During the user testing, Ms. Siv Vatana requested participants to search for the Draft Environment and Natural Resources Code to check if the ODC platform is accessible to the majority. There were also follow up questions of participants. Some of the participants were able to find the code by using key word searching, while some of them were not as they thoughts the ODC website is complicated and confusing.

The ODC team prepared a small quiz and asked for participants. One legal student from RULE said, “My behavior in seeking legal documents is through the typing of a keyword title in Google. If I don’t find it, I’m going to surf more at the respective ministry or relevant ministry, which I sometimes find a challenging job. Ministries do not have a collection of records and so it is very difficult to locate legal documents. In my opinion, I think that the previous version of ODC is much better than the current version because the structure is simpler to surf the different documents.

Mr. Mardy collected the feedbacks from the participants.

And, other participants from an NGO shared her feedback, “It’s kind of complicated, but it’s easy to understand the mechanism. As a result, ODC should produce a very short instructional video on how to use the ODC website, length from 20 seconds to 1 minute is appropriate​. The users will find it convenient and have the capacity to make full use of the ODC legal page.” In order to make ODC less difficult and to attract the user to locate a document, the menu bar of the “Legal documents” shall be replaced by the “DataHub” menu bar. Thus, new users may feel that ODC has a lot more than just legal documents at first sight.

In responding to her suggestions, the last participant from an NGO responded, “In my opinion, “DataHub” menu bar should not be replaced because ODC already has the Data Hub on the menu bar. To keep Data Hub on the menu bar, it is much easy to visit and search for the legal document. And personally, I think ODC is better than the other existing websites, due it provides more documents to access and the way ODC handles and clusters the documents. However, I think that ODC should work more on the filter section, especially the re-arrangement of elements in the filter section. Similar to what ODC did on the legal page of the old generation website. ODC should make the most important appear at the top and the less important appear at the bottom of the section.

Blog is written by: Mr. Chouth​ Chansambath, ODC Content and Research Intern.