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The digital justice imperative
British Columbia’s Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) is a shining example of how digitally transforming justice services can drive better access to justice for citizens, deliver better value for money for government and increase the overall capacity of the justice system. The CRT was established as Canada’s first digital-by-default adjudicative organization in 2016 and currently provides British Columbians with accessible online access to dispute resolution services for strata (condo), small claims, societies and cooperatives, minor motor vehicle injuries and enhanced care benefits. The CRT process provides flexibility and enables better collaboration to resolve disputes as early and inexpensively as possible.
The institutions that administer justice are some of the oldest organizations in the world. But for many jurisdictions, the age, traditions and complexity of these organizations have resulted in costly and inefficient processes supported by outdated technology or manual procedures. Similar to many other public and private organizations, these institutions are recognizing the potential for digital transformation to provide a vastly improved customer experience and cut cost, complexity and delay.
Citizen-focused justice institutions can use a digital-first approach to improve, digitize and automate citizen interactions and internal (back-office) processes. The British Columbia Ministry of Attorney General has been a global pioneer in the digital transformation of justice services through its Tribunal Transformation Initiative (TTI). It was launched in 2013 to address these needs and enhance the capacity of the justice sector. PwC has partnered with the Ministry since 2014 to support this digital transformation journey.
Historically, administrative tribunals in British Columbia acted independently and implemented technology solutions in silos, leading to fragmented application portfolios, complex and costly application maintenance and technology debt. The TTI delivered a common technology platform enabling end-to-end digital justice case management and online dispute resolution (ODR) across the administrative justice sector to cater to the various types of cases administered by tribunals (e.g. appeals, disputes, reconsiderations, complaints, hearings, certifications and registrations). The innovative digital justice platform developed as part of the TTI was a pivotal part of meeting rising citizen experience expectations, ushering in modern service standards, and increasing tribunal efficiency and throughout.
The TTI digital justice platform includes two cloud-based applications: the Solution Explorer and the Dispute Resolution Suite (DRS). These applications work in tandem to deliver a fully-featured, end-to-end digital justice case management system. By focusing on three key layers—business transformation, user experience and technology transformation—the Solution Explorer and DRS are delivering multi-channel access to justice that’s easier, faster, fairer and more affordable for all British Columbians.
The Solution Explorer and DRS are built on Salesforce’s platform-as-a-service (PaaS) architecture. They include a combination of native functionalities configured to meet the needs of citizens, as well as custom features to address specific business requirements, integrate with existing government systems and ensure a world-class user experience. They were developed with a heavy focus on reusability, flexibility and extensibility to meet the needs of organizations across the justice sector.
The Solution Explorer is an “expert system” that provides free information to citizens with a legal issue to support early resolution. It’s anonymous and available 24/7, and offers tailored, easy-to-read contextual information about a citizen’s issue through interactive questions and answers. It also provides tools, templates and resources to inform citizens about their options and help them initiate a case with a tribunal, if needed.
The DRS is a fully-featured, end-to-end digital justice case management system that integrates with the Solution Explorer and other government systems (e.g. BC Express Pay) to help citizens seamlessly resolve their issue—be it a dispute, complaint, appeal, reconsideration, certification or other type of case. It offers a world-class user experience and options for early dispute resolution at all stages of the justice life cycle, including online submission, case management, mediation, negotiation, hearing and adjudication.
Together, the Solution Explorer and DRS enable transition away from paper-based processes, in-person activities and manual workflows. They also provide alternate dispute resolution options for self resolution, assisted resolution and adjudicated resolution as well as address several barriers to justice, including disparate and siloed systems, high legal fees, geographical challenges for citizens outside major cities and lengthy, complicated processes.
Since going live in July 2016, the TTI digital justice platform has helped the CRT resolve upwards of 20,000 cases, with more than 75% of cases being resolved without the need for formal adjudications. The CRT has reduced the average time to resolve a case from seven to11 months down to 60-90 days. And more than 80% of users have reported a positive experience when engaging with the CRT.
A key part of the success of the CRT’s transformation was the digital enablement of both citizens and tribunal staff. More than 45% of citizens who engaged with the CRT did so outside of normal office hours, avoiding the need to take time off work or organize childcare. It’s also meant that tribunal staff are able to work remotely through seamless access to cloud technology from any connected mobile device. This proved invaluable when COVID-19 hit in early 2020. After the CRT closed their offices and sent all staff home, employees were able to log-in remotely and start working again the following morning with zero interruption to CRT business—a stark difference to the experiences of most tribunals and courts across Canada.
In addition to contributing to the success of the CRT, the TTI has also implemented the Solution Explorer and/or DRS—both of which are continuously enhanced to meet new business needs as well as increase accessibility and usability—in eight other organizations across three ministries in BC to transform the way they work. Adopting these new solutions enabled them to move off legacy systems and implement digital services that sped up case resolutions—improving both the citizen and the staff experience, saving money and increasing the overall capacity of the justice sector.