Microsoft and Strathmore University School of Law have devised a partnership that will see key strides made in the manner East Africa’s judicial systems operate. Named the ‘Policy Innovation Series’, the program targets to digitize the region’s judicial processes, systems, and their overall functions. The policy and discussion are in line with previously set goals that purpose to digitize local systems – an activity that has been tasked to government agencies, the justice system, and the private sector.
This development was discussed sometime last week at Strathmore Law School where judges, public administrators and IT professional convened to dig into the details of the partnership.
‘The technology that courts are seeking to introduce will provide improved access to justice in a number of ways ranging from making it easier for litigants to participate in the court processes to providing effective and increased productivity and ensuring there is enhanced transparency,’ remarked Christopher Akiwumi, Microsoft’s Middle East and Africa Director of Government Affairs.
Processes that will be digitized
The partnership will digitize case management systems, e-filing processes, document management systems and courtroom applications such as audiovisual and transcriptions processes.
Among the courts that will benefit from the digitization process include the COMESA Court, the East African Court of Justice, the Supreme Court of Kenya and the Court of Appeal.
‘The idea is for all of us to be able to sit together to discuss some of the bigger issues and challenges we are facing in the judicial systems today, share best practice and explore how digital transformation can address some of those challenges,’ Akiwumi added.
Legal experts believe that digitization of court systems will bolster the citizens’ confidence during legal representation, in addition to being a key indicator of the efficiencies of the rule of law.
It has been projected that the process will ensure accountability of the justice system, coupled with the independence and impartiality of prosecutors and judges.
‘We have a commercial justice sector in the commercial division that we are working on with regards to case management and an e-filing solution and we hope that before the end of the current year, we will be able to roll these services out to the other stations,’ noted Justice Gatembu Kairu of Kenya’s Court of Appeal.
Accountability will be enhanced via free access to court forms, legislation and judgments online, as well as processes to give feedback.
Court filings, which usually take more than 3 months to process, will markedly benefit from digitization.
‘Filing a court case can take up to three months because of the manual processes involved not forgetting the associated costs,’ Justice Kairu regretted.