POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - ECONOMY

Harnessing crowd power for change



Alex Bogdanov, pictured, is a Russian lawyer who is developing tools to empower people to bring about change Simon Verjus

Alex Bogdanov, pictured, is a Russian lawyer who is developing tools to empower people to bring about change Simon Verjus

After a year of measures designed to contain covid, global protests are now widespread, even in mild-mannered Estonia.

When the government announced a controversial reform that would enable police to enter the home of a person who fails to comply with contagious disease prevention measures, it triggered weeks of protest.

“For them this kind of amendment was unprecedented,” entrepreneur and lawyer Alex Bogdanov explains. “Protesting is fine, but you need to channel that energy into all of the tools available to make a real impact.”

Bogdanov had a very specific tool in mind. At the end of March, he launched viralhelp.me in Estonia, a justice as a service platform that uses an algorithm to compose letters of complaint, in this case letters that could be sent to politicians to address political failings.

According to the lawyer, within the first few days of launching, parliament received around 500,000 emails of complaint through his platform. “Apparently it worked. Now there are more initiatives. People are protesting against distance learning for schools and there’s a complaint to the parliament to abolish distance learning and reopen schools,” the Russian expat says.

Bogdanov developed the platform as one of several justice as a service tools under his Zesty Lawyer business, which is hosted at the University of Luxembourg incubator. He says: “I’m not into politics, it just happens there are political applications of this tool. The idea is to get crowd power to channel them into legal ways to defend their rights.”

He sees Estonia, which has a population of 1.3 million, as an ideal testing ground and in future hopes to publish rankings on a regular basis by ministry and by region, “that way you can see statistics on how each authority and bureaucrat deals with complaints for when elections come up.” Ultimately, he later hopes to expand the crowd power site to Western Europe.

During the first year of the pandemic in Luxembourg, the lawyer launched viralhelp.online.lu to help businesses and consumers resolve a range of issues related to covid-19, such as renegotiating contracts on their own by answering a series of questions.

An algorithm then helps the user to determine the correct actions to take to gain justice. The entrepreneur is currently focusing on functionality that would help resolve disputes between tenants and landlords, and which would handle communications, reports on property inspections and guarantees.