The digital revolution and new technologies have behooved governments and citizens to rethink justice and access to justice. For example, millions of people around the world now rely on mobile devices to meet their everyday justice needs. However, this shift from physical to digital comes with functional, cultural, and regulatory challenges.
To understand how emerging technologies can be an accelerator for access to justice, both at the European level and abroad, the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union convened a virtual conference, “For a people-centered e-Justice”. The gathering sought to promote reflection among governments, international organisations, academia, civil society, and the private sector on the digitalisation of justice, and what it could mean for the principles of equity, transparency, and protection of human rights.
Organised over the course of two days, themes from “For a people-centered e-Justice” examined the future of justice, fair access and inclusivity, women in justice, and digital ethics and cybersecurity. It also highlighted several new innovations and initiatives.
HiiL played a prominent role on the second day of the conference. In the session, Connecting Technology and Innovation to Better Justice, HiiL CEO Sam Muller led a panel discussion on justice systems in Europe. The exchange featured Toñis Saar, Secretary General of the Ministry of Justice in Estonia and Renko Dirksen, a Member of the Board at ARAG SE in Germany.
“Technology allows more than we can afford today or are willing to afford today,” said Toñis. For his part, Renko added, “The customer experience should be at the foundation of legal systems, and we will need a generally accepted legal system that is digital.”
In 2019, more than 1 billion euros was invested in justice tech but less than 3% of that investment was steered towards customer facing and interfacing technology.
Professor Maurits Barendrecht, the Director of Research & Development at HiiL presented insights focused on data and evidence-based practice during his session, What is ‘better justice’: How can technology support people-centered justice? His presentation offered a snapshot into systematic approaches employed by HiiL over the past decade and further detailed in our latest Trend Report, Delivering Justice, Rigorously.
“One critical aspect to successful people-centred justice involves setting up task forces,” said Maurits. “These can help to create an environment that spurs and supports Gamechangers, the unique services or tools that can have the greatest impact towards realising justice transformation goals.”
E-Justice tech and trends
The presentation by Maurits provided an appropriate transition to the parallel sessions exploring game-changing justice innovations. Each moderated by HiiLers, the three sessions focused on claiming platforms, user-friendly contracts, and online dispute resolution.
In the first session on claiming platforms, HiiL’s Director of Innovation, Ronald Lenz moderated a conversation featuring three game-changing services having an immediate impact in e-justice and helping to shape how justice services actually benefit citizens.
“E-justice is a key element in the modernisation of judicial systems,” said Ronald. “It can be defined as the use of technology, information, and communication to improve both access to justice and judicial action for citizens.”
The Gamechangers included CONNY, a legal services platform in Germany focused on tenancy, labour, and telecommunications law; DemanderJustice, a Paris-based platform facilitating applications to the Labour Court system in France; and AppJection, a portal for submitting appeals based in the Netherlands.
Representatives from each of these services and the others featured during the parallel sessions – Axdraft, Cryptonomica, WeAgree, Justice42, Justix, and Jur.io – acknowledged the impact of Covid-19 which pushed the justice sector to accelerate its digital and online transformation.
“A community of innovators in the justice space is thriving and there is openness to share knowledge and collaborate,” said Iran Huffels, Programme Manager with HiiL’s Justice Accelerator. Her moderated session on user-friendly contracts, however, also highlighted a need for more openness from governments and the public justice sector towards private service providers. This can be especially true when it comes to open access to important data typically available only to governments (e.g. taxation, criminal records).
“Tech can enhance justice services we provide,” recapped Borja Gutierrez, the Justice Accelerator Fund Specialist at HiiL and moderator of the online dispute resolution session. “But we are probably measuring quality in the wrong way and not focused enough on the end-user and how they experience their justice journey. More data will help.”
With advancements in technology and the increasing adoption of AI, public-private partnerships will be key to justice innovation and delivering on the promise of expanding access to justice that “make customers feel victorious!”As one panelist remarked, “Tech is not a solution, it is a means.”
Indeed, in the words of another participant, “Legal literacy will be key in all of this. Because if people know the system, they will know how to access it.”