Law & Justice: Addressing technology in African Courtooms.
One area where technology has recently made big advances in Africa is inside the courtroom. In fact, it won’t be long before many African countries can boast courts that are more advanced even than the UK.
That’s because the COMESA Court of Justice, or to put it less succinctly, the Court for the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, has recently begun upgrading its standard paper-based system to a digital justice one. The new software will one day completely eliminate paper in the trial environment, which for those familiar with the inner-workings of a courtroom, is no small feat.
In the UK alone, the amount of paper used by the court systems if stacked from the ground up, would reach the height of the London Shard – every four days. It’s this colossal use of paper that is one of the driving factors behind this modernisation globally, but there are others.
Khartoum is good example. Sudan hosts the COMESA Court of Justice and is where the majority of cases are heard. To file a claim, lawyers must physically take the claim documents to the court and file in person – this is not only expensive when travel costs are considered but is also time-consuming and requires a lot of paper to be moved between two locations.
The costs associated with managing paper can often be surprising. While each sheet individually costs about $0.01, internal research done by CaseLines has revealed that this can spiral to round $0.40 per page once transport, storage and preparation costs are factored in for court documents. Needless to say, it’s expensive for all involved. The monthly courier bill alone for the COMESA Court of Justice is around $3,000.
There are practical factors as well to consider. The current arrangements make it hard for judges to properly prepare for cases. How can they when they might not see key evidence or files until just before the case is heard in court? The new digital evidence platform means lawyers and judges only need access to a computer. Judges will therefore be able to work from anywhere in the continent and be able to access the files and cases at ease, with the assurance that they are the most accurate and relevant files.
The COMESA Court of Justice is not the only shining light. Kenya’s Court of Appeal is currently participating in a trial with one court room as part of a pro-bono initiative. In the first 6 weeks this one court room held over 80 paperless hearings. Kenya’s system allows the creation and presentation of a fully digital bundle including multi-media evidence; collaboration tools for enhanced pre-trial preparation and secure role validated videoconferencing, for virtual hearings. It’s an excellent example of the effectiveness of cloud technology and how it can enable any court in the world to utilise the best available technology.
The hope of course for the continent is that with some of the most senior courts going digital and spearheading change, other courts will follow. This is important because, across Africa, courts suffer from slow processes, backlogs, mismanagement of cases and even corruption, all of which currently act as a barrier to enforcing the rule of the law. Paperless, digital courts help solve all of these problems and support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in this area.
Virtual courtrooms can revolutionise the speed and quality of justice. It would make securing testimony far easier. Witnesses, both policemen and citizens, need no longer take time off work while vulnerable witnesses can be protected from attending upsetting trials. It would also save a significant amount of money. If we compare the UK again where these figures are available, prisoner transportation is 10 percent of the annual Ministry of Justice budget. It can redirect money where it is needed most.
Going forward, digital justice systems now have plans to allow innovations such as Blockchain to be featured in their software. We recently applied to patent blockchain in evidence management as the way it stores data renders it immutable because of a combination of cryptography and how it is distributed among a peer-to-peer set of participants. What this means in layman’s terms is that once a piece of evidence is entered into the system, there is no possibility of records being altered or falsified.
Digital systems offer a lower cost alternative and deliver a far greater efficiency and transparency to the process of justice. An effective and functioning legal system is not just good news for those who deal with courts, but for African society and business too. With less issues regarding legacy, many of these systems once up and running will be more advanced than anywhere in the world, it’s a giant leap forward to addressing technology in Africa.
Paul Sachs is a leading expert in the field of legal technology, as well as the founder and CTO of digital evidence management platform CaseLines. CaseLines is the leading global provider of software as a service for the electronic preparation and presentation of evidence, legal bundles, documentary and video evidence
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”