Akoma Ntoso aims at providing support for a large number of tasks and users spread throughout time, space and competencies. The types of potential users that might end up using or benefiting from Akoma Ntoso can be grouped in the following categories:
The “author” can be a member of a Parliament, a Judge, a legal practitioner or a clerk/personal assistant of them. He/she is currently drafting a new piece of legislation, due to be discussed which maybe, approved in a future session of the Parliament, or preparing a judgement. “The author” might not be aware of the existence of Akoma Ntoso, XML, or any such technicality. He/she might, or might not, be aware of the existence of guidelines in the formal drafting of law and judgements. Yet he/she does not know what XML is, and does not care. But he/she wants be able retrieve bills, acts, judgements, etc. effectively, and to be able to access explicit references to other laws made in them, etc. The ”author” also wants to be able to access “point-in-time” consolidations of laws that provide a version of the original act updated to a specific point in time through the application of all the subsequent amendments , and wants easy and effective tools to find and retrieve bills, acts, judgements, etc. to carry out his/her duties more effectively.
The “drafter” is a member of the office supporting the process of drafting of legal documents, be it of legislation, parliamentary proceedings or judgements. During the work-flow phase, the “drafter” receives all proposed text modifications to a document being drafted abd generates any of a number of documents used by the “authors” (e.g., members of the Parliaments, judges, etc.), such as summaries, synaptic views of amendments, etc.. When the proposed document is finally approved, he/she creates the final version of it, either directly in an XML editor using the Akoma Ntoso format or in a word processing application creating a file that is then translated into Akoma Ntoso XML by some downstream process phase. The “drafter” is a domain expert in a specific matter, e.g legislation, judgements, etc. , and has some, even minor, computing experience, but he/she is definitely no computer programmer or scientist. He/she is aware of Akoma Ntoso and knows about its structural and semantic requirements but he/she may know very little about XML and he/she will never be exposed or required to know anything about XML. Yet he/she is usually required to be very knowledgeable about the structures, semantics and explicit and implicit information the the document he/she is drafting carries.
The “toolmaker” is a computer scientist working for a computing firm who has a contract for creating Akoma Ntoso software for a specific Parliament or Court. The “toolmaker” may need to create a specialized editing tool by customizing a well-known Word Processor (such as OpenOffice.org or MS Office) or a conversion tools that creates valid Akoma Ntoso documents recognizing formatting characteristics of the input texts, or any possibly as yet unforeseeable tool doing advanced processes on Akoma Ntoso documents. He/she is given the goal of making the tools usable by the “drafter” and his/her colleagues, and at the same time make it generate documents that are compatible with Akoma Ntoso rules. Differently from the “drafter”, the “toolmaker” has full access to the Akoma Ntoso documentation, and can talk to his users to understand together what each part of Akoma Ntoso really is relevant to their task and how to proceed.
The “citizen” of a country where the Akoma Ntoso system is being used, he/she might be a lawyer, a public employee, an business person or just any ordinary citizen needing fast and easy access to laws legislation or judgements for his/her own purposes. His/her main objective is searching for laws and judgements either through an explicit reference (e.g. “section 36(2)(c)(ii) of Act 2-1999”) or via a search interface (either textual or exploiting vocabularies and ontologies specified through the Akoma Ntoso metadata). The “citizen” doesn’t know what Akoma Ntoso is meant to deliver, that the project is meant to provide the text of legal documents through some kind of esoteric machinery behind the scenes, he/she does not know what XML is, and does not care. He/she wants his/her web browser to display the text of the acts, proceedings and judgments he/she searched, and wants all explicit references to other documents to be hypertext links that can be navigated with ease and immediacy, and wants a reasonable interface that lets him/her read the text on the screen and, when necessary, print it on paper.
The “future toolmaker”
The “future toolmaker” is 10 years old now. He/she is playing with his school friends and does not know anything about Akoma Ntoso and does not care. Yet. He/she is in this list because in fifteen years, when he/she’ll be 25, he/she will be a professional computer programmer and will have to create new tools for Akoma Ntoso. The key difference between the “toolmaker” and the “future toolmaker” is that the “future toolmaker” may not have access to the complete documentation of the Akoma Ntoso project, because things may have been changed globally or locally with little or no formal records, and people responsible for these changes may have moved, retired or forgotten about the changes altogether. He/she may only have sparse documentation of the actual features of the system. Furthermore, he/she will have to deal with a fairly stratified situation where the basic ideas (on which today’s “toolmaker” has worked) have evolved, modified, expanded and changed emphasis. Furthermore, more often than not these changes have happened slowly and without documentation. The only sure thing that the “future toolmaker” has to work on is more than 15 years of legislation available in XML format, whose documentation is introductory for certain, but far from complete and sufficient. Fortunately the early Akoma Ntoso decisions have been to have the XML format be as self-explanatory as possible, so that he/she can, in principle, deduce all undocumented facts about Akoma Ntoso by simply examining a few relevant XML instances of the legislation and discovering there how it should work. In a sense, the “future toolmaker” is more a key user for our system than the “toolmaker”, and the possibility for the “future toolmaker” to deduce fundamental properties of Akoma Ntoso from the visual examination of XML documents will make us sure of long-term existence and usefulness of the Akoma Ntoso system itself.