The Justice, Law and Order (JLOS) sector has called for innovative approaches to technology that can be used to achieve justice faster, more effectively and at low cost.
This was evident during a workshop organized by JLOS in collaboration with the Innovation Village and with support from the European Union (Justice Reform and Accountability) to inform a wide range of stakeholders on how technology can be used to improve access to justice to improve.
Sam Rogers Wairagala, Deputy Senior Technical Advisor at the JLOS Secretariat, said technology is increasingly being used as a solution to facilitate access to justice.
“While challenges and bottlenecks exist in the uptake of technology in Uganda’s legal and judicial system, efforts are being made by various stakeholders within the sector to ensure that digital innovations such as video conferencing for court hearings, electronic files, digital exhibits and evidence presentation are increasing throughout court cases,” he said.
He added that JLOS believes that technology has the potential to transform access to justice and improve the entire legal system because, if used well, digital tools can enable justice institutions to streamline and realign their business processes, improve the provision of services to users and protect people’s rights and democratize access to justice.
The judicial system around the world is designed in such a way that it makes it difficult for ordinary people to access justice. This is evident in the complexity of the language or terminology used, the protocols of conduct and even the way courtrooms are designed, seemingly deliberately erecting barriers between the judges, lawyers and the rest of the common people. It’s no different in Uganda.
Kept under the theme Creation of solutions, partnerships and synergies for a digitally driven and integrated justice ecosystemthe stakeholder workshop addressed key areas within the justice sector where technology can be leveraged to enable faster, more efficient case management, effective conflict resolution and easy access to the legal system.
Edgar Kuhimbisa, Head of e-Justice and Digital Transformation at the JLOS Secretariat, stressed the need for public-private partnerships to advance the digital justice agenda.
“Our collaboration with actors in this ecosystem such as the Innovation Village via the LegalTech Lab is crucial to enable us to innovate around the development of digital legal solutions that can streamline citizens’ interactions with judicial institutions to transform the way justice works for the simple Ugandans.” , stated Kuhimbisa.
Hellen Mukasa, head of the LegalTech Lab at the Innovation Village, said that transforming the justice sector through innovation makes the justice system more accessible and equitable for all, helping to streamline administrative processes, avoiding bureaucracy and reducing massive court cases and backlogs with which the system is currently facing.
“By adopting e-justice platforms, citizens will be able to navigate the complexities of law and enjoy more frequent and higher-quality interaction with judicial institutions, increasing citizen engagement, transparency and accountability of judicial institutions improved,” said Mukasa.
She further said they will be running a major hackathon challenge through the Future Lab Studio that will bring together founders, developers, businesses and other stakeholders to hack solutions to challenges that are preventing unserved and underserved communities from reaching their full potential .
“Title as big hack, The challenge will leverage interdisciplinary innovation to address systemic challenges in the targeted opportunity areas where innovators can innovate in either community-driven development, last-mile access, or cutting-edge finance,” she added.
The innovators are supported through coaching and mentoring during the incubation and accelerator programs to identify gaps in the justice system to bring their innovations to market.
“Although the process of digitizing the judicial system has begun, bringing the courts and the entire judicial system into the digital age is a complex and monumental task. For it to be a success, our traditional understanding of access to justice must be reconsidered and ambitious digital strategies developed and implemented,” added Mukasa.