Six Takeaways from “Courts of the Future” Symposium in Kenya

Posted on 1st June 2018

After the great success of our “Courts of the Future” workshop in London at the end of April, Access Partnership, Microsoft and Strathmore Law School held a second symposium on the digital transformation of court systems last week in Nairobi, Kenya. We were able to  gather judges, administrators, public officials, IT and policy experts from around Eastern Africa (the COMESA region) for panels, roundtable discussions and guided exercises. The potential of digital tools for justice is enormous, as these discussions made clear, but by sharing their experiences, attendees also mapped out the challenges African courts face in adopting new tools.

Participants were enthusiastic about the potential of digital tools for improving efficiency, transparency and access. Particular applications that seemed to resonate with judges included transcription and archiving of sessions, video-conferencing, and cloud-based document management. However, some expressed a degree of scepticism; past IT efforts have often failed to meet their needs, and, while several were enthusiastic about comprehensive end-to-end digital systems like those adopted by Abu Dhabi Global Market Courts, several others cautioned that smaller steps were needed, suggesting that digitalisation be introduced incrementally.

Balancing the two — the need and enthusiasm for digital solutions that can reduce bureaucracy and remove barriers for citizens, and the need for caution, security and trust in justice systems — will be difficult, and several attendees argued that digital tools are no substitute for reforms and cultural changes in courts. However, digital tools can solve several key issues in African courts, as our six takeaways show:

These productive discussions will feed into a white paper on digital transformation of courts systems that Access Partnership is authoring.

You may also find interesting:

Watch a video from the Nairobi event here.

Three Lessons for Bringing the Courts System to the Digital Age — a review of our workshop in London.

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