How do you keep 1500 (and growing) legal and regulatory Q&As up to date for key African jurisdictions? How do you compile your knowledge base?
These are questions we often get when we demo the Afriwise platform. Here’s a short overview of how we compile and maintain our knowledge base.
We have carefully structured what we call our knowledge base; our “library”, so to speak. The structure is currently made up of 19 key commercial categories (our “bookshelves”), each containing discrete sets of information (topics). Each topic consists of relevant Q&As. Our structure allows us to extend the knowledge base in a logical and hierarchical manner.
Besides structuring the knowledge base, we have carefully defined the format in which the answer to each question must be written and we provide our contributors with guidance on content and phrasing.
At this point, our local partners, which are all top law firms in their jurisdictions, populate the initial content (i.e. prepare responses to the Q&As, as per our guidelines). We have gone to quite some effort to make this as easy as possible for the contributors. First, the questions are straightforward and relatively generic. Secondly, we provide a fixed format in which to write the answers, as well as guidance notes on what we expect from each answer. This prevents confusion about what is required; therefore, avoiding wasting time and providing clear, consistent answers.
The six-phase editing process
All answers received from local firms go through a thorough editing process, which is managed by our own team of editors (all lawyers and/or legal journalists with law degrees). The process consists of several phases, which ensures that the answers are accurate, up to date, relevant and practical:
- When we receive all answers in relation to a certain category for a country, the first thing we do is assess it to see if it meets our quality standards. If not, it is sent back to the contributor with detailed guidance on how to bring it up to standard.
- For each category that passes this initial scrutiny, one of our editors carefully goes through it. Here, the editor checks that each answer actually answers the question and answers it fully, picks up inconsistent answers and questionable ones. The editor will also focus on grammar, spelling, style and consistency. This is important for when we overlay technological tools, such as the comparison tool, which allows users to compare answers across countries.
- During this process, the editor raises queries for the contributor to respond to, e.g. if two answers contradict each other or if information is missing.
- Depending on the responses received to these queries, this process may be repeated.
- The editor then consolidates the responses and one of our other editors conducts a final proofread of the entire category before it is uploaded to the platform.
- Once uploaded, the authoring contributor is asked to approve the final version, to ensure that it is accurate and up to date.
Keeping the knowledge base up to date
The knowledge base is maintained through close collaboration between the contributors, our editors and our team of legal-development monitors. We have several systems in place to pick up relevant changes in law and regulations:
- Upcoming legal reforms are already described in quite some detail in each category and hence are closely monitored by our editors.
- We are in regular contact with our local partner firms and regularly enquire about legal developments. Our local contributing firms also proactively notify us about changes that have an impact on the answers provided by them.
- We also proactively monitor updates in each country that could affect the knowledge base, using a variety of sources.
- We have separate, dedicated editing resources to update the existing knowledge base.
Expanding the Afriwise platform
Having the most relevant legal and regulatory information available and maintained at any given time is a first step. A second step is to grow the knowledge base and ensure that as many questions as possible that businesses may be confronted with are addressed on the platform. We achieve this by allowing subscribers to request clarifications and suggest new questions to be addressed.
Afriwise is thus a genuine partnership between all stakeholders: contributors, subscribers, experts and our internal team.
Our contributors are rewarded for the information they bring to the table, local experts receive international exposure and more business, and subscribers have access to up-to-date legal information and can request new information via the platform. We see it as one continuous motion, where everyone benefits from each other’s efforts – a knock-on effect that makes the wheel bigger and spin faster.