Information and Communication Technology in general and the internet in particular have been creating unprecedented opportunities in facilitating and streamlining access to information.
Websites have become a common way of publishing legal information for the public in many countries. In Ethiopia, however, the availability of legal websites has been very limited or non-existent. Except for the constitution, no other basic Ethiopian law has ever been published online. To benefit from the tremendous potentials of the internet, a project was initiated to develop an Ethiopian Legal Information Web Site.
Based on users' requirements obtained from questionnaire analysis, and current paradigms and implications, the Ethiopian Legal Information Website was designed, developed, implemented and maintained. The website is an online database of Ethiopian basic laws developed by Mekelle University, Ethiopia, in cooperation with the Non-Western Law Department of Ghent University, Belgium.
Basic laws included on the site at present are the Ethiopian Constitution, Civil Code, Criminal Code, Civil Procedure Code, Criminal Procedure Code, Commercial Code and Family Code. The laws can be viewed and used in full text html, whereas some of the laws including the 2004 Criminal Code, Family Code, FDKE Constitution and the Tigray Regional State Constitution are available in pdf Laws can be searched by keywords using the site search engine. Comments and suggestions from experts and Ethiopian laws users have been collected, hence modifications, improvements and additions have been made to the website. The Ethiopian Legal Information Website was first hosted on the University of Ghent internet server and currently in the Mekelle University server at http://mail.mu.edu. et/~ethiopialaws/.1
The Ethiopian Legal Information Website has been found to be a useful web portal to access and use the basic Ethiopian laws. The University of Ghent, ILO, the Library of Congress, AUSTLII, WASHLAW, WIKIPEDIA and other major legal web portals make citations in reference to the site.
While the website currently contains only the basic laws of the federal government, an action plan is prepared to include regional laws of Ethiopia. Other legal information including amendments to the laws, decisions and legal news will also be included on the site, hence a comprehensive Ethiopian Legal Web Portal will be developed and maintained.
Key Words: Legal Information, Legal Information Website, Digital Divide