Two years ago, Finchley teenager Joshua Browder created a website called donotpay.co.uk. The site, which simplified the process of contesting parking tickets, has a huge hit with motorists and garnered acres of press coverage – including an article in the JC.
Joshua went on to modify the core code to cover various other legal issues, such as helping vulnerable people apply for emergency housing, and dealing with PPI claims.
They are now teaching DoNotPay in Cambridge Law lectures according to friend who studies there. Shame they didn't accept me though! pic.twitter.com/CTUueSeYLm— Joshua Browder (@jbrowder1) February 6, 2017
Now Joshua’s coding skill is back in the news. He has devised an automated ‘chatbot’ which uses Facebook’s messaging system to talk refugees who are arriving in the US and Canada through the process of filling in an immigration application. For UK arrivals, it helps them apply for asylum support.
Joshua told the Guardian “I’ve been trying to launch this for about six months – I initially wanted to do it in the summer. But I wanted to make sure I got it right because it’s such a complicated issue. I kept showing it to lawyers throughout the process and I’d go back and tweak it.
“That took months and months of work, but we wanted to make sure it was right.”
With Donald Trump’s revised presidential executive order suspending the US refugee programme for 120 days and adding more uncertainty for refugees seeking a new home in the US, Joshua’s innovation could hardly be more timely.
The original DoNotPay site was launched as a free service and has seen over 160,000 parking fines overturned. Joshua’s homelessness bot has had over 3,000 users, with more than 240,000 messages processed.
Joshua already has plans for new innovations. He told the JC; "I have so many exciting plans coming up, including benefits, pensions and divorce. I think that there are so many lawyer charging hundreds of pounds for doing very little."