DURBAN - Mediation Academy has built a free tool to solve South Africa's child maintenance problem and create new opportunities through the use of technology.
The app is built on the Pro-Rata Principle. According to this legal principle, each parent must contribute in proportion to their income. E.g. if parent A earns R10, 000 and parent B earns R20,000, then parent B is responsible for two-thirds of the children's total expenses. The Solution
The Mediation Academy Maintenance Calculator is an App that involves zero math, allowing a third-party to effectively mediate maintenance between parents. The purpose of the calculator is to produce inputs, which the Courts can then consider when issuing maintenance orders.
It's in a format that makes it easy to fill out the maintenance forms used at court and can even be used by maintenance officers.
"Where a maintenance order has been mediated with both parents agreeing on every details, we find a much higher rate of payment compliance," said Barry Greyvenstein, the app's designer.
According to Greyvenstein, there are five reasons why the app was created including
1. To create a tool where the private sector can help the public sector (though I stress that only Courts get to make the final decisions, we just want to make inputs easier and better). If the courts want, they themselves can even use the App.
2.To curb unemployment - especially amongst unemployed graduates in law and social sciences. The only tech you need is a cellphone/tablet/laptop and about 1MB of data per case. Immediate increase in South Africa's GDP.
3. To create an entry point for disrupting the cycle of conflict between parents. If the financial problems are addressed, parents work together better. Maintenance disputes are a golden opportunity for resolving conflict between parents.
4. To give children better access to the financial resources they need.
5. Maths skills are in short supply.. the app creates a way to bridge this gap and provide opportunities for generating an income to people who can resolve conflict but don't enjoy working with Excel or pivot tables.
The app works cellphones, tablets, laptops - even Smart TV's. It is built to accommodate high- and low income households, and it allows parents to decide which approach is fair for each item on the budget.
The App automatically calculates
1. How much of each parent's income is eligible for maintenance,
2. What the maintenance payments should be,
3. And most importantly, we can see if the budget is going to be sustainable
"There is a huge need out there, and unless we do something about the problem, it's not going away on its own. We see a clear opportunity in the market for Attorneys, Mediators, Social Workers and Psychologists to get quicker resolution on cases involving maintenance," said Greyvenstein.
The planning for the app took place over the last 12 months, but development and testing was done in the last 4 months. The app is free and was developed by an IT company called Framework.sh.