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OPINION: E-litigation – When law embraces technology

Chong Kok Keong | May 23, 2012
Technology offers many prospects for policy makers to make justice more accessible, transparent and efficient.

As we move towards a globalised world, our lives are getting increasingly automated and interconnected. The omnipresent Internet has changed how people interact, with information readily available in real time.  

We see the same with governments globally as they adapt how they manage and share information with their citizens and business owners. Specifically for foreign investors, it is important that business processes are transparent to make the environment conducive to attract such investments.

The legal system or judiciary is one of the most essential aspects in this process. A transparent and efficient legal system inspires confidence in foreign investors and businesses in general. As identified by the United Nations, an efficient judiciary system is a country's core pillar for economic development.

More countries are motivated to make judicial reform a priority to modernise the machinery of governments, especially out-dated policies that impede business processes. Countries envision the judiciary to deliver more equitable, expeditious and transparent services to citizens, businesses and the state. They also wish for an effective judiciary that is capable of enforcing the rule of law - to be strong and independent, consistent in high quality operations, adequate in size, dignified and efficient. In this connection, technology offers many prospects for policy makers to make justice more accessible, transparent and efficient.

How has technology changed the judiciary

In the modernised commercial environment, e-mails, instant messaging, electronic documents, Internet transactions and a whole host of other online services are the norm. This generated large volumes of digital documents, and in any court proceedings, managing large volumes of these electronic documents coupled with physical documents is challenging.

Court cases usually take a long time to get resolved because someone is filing a motion and a long paper trail is created to support the case. As we utilise an increasing amount of digital content, how can the legal community collect and preserve these electronic documents?  What are the tools to help lawyers present these documents in the course of a trial? How can judges leverage technology to manage trials?

Back in 1990, Singapore Attorney General's Chambers had a vision to harness technology to efficiently deliver justice and make the Courts more accessible to the public. The plan was to simplify criminal and civil proceedings and build a strategic national information network to enable a wide array of electronic information services for both the courts and lawyers.

Prior to the reforms, the Singapore Judiciary was experiencing a serious backlog of cases with waiting periods for trials lasting as long as years. Since the reforms, cases today are processed electronically and heard within three months. More than half of all cases are now concluded within six months, ranking the Singapore's judicial system among the fastest in the world.


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