The digital justice imperative
The institutions that administer justice are some of the oldest organizations in the world. The need for any civil society to have a respected and well-run justice system is obvious and means that for most jurisdictions, these are among the oldest institutions. 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age, traditions and complexity of these organizations have resulted in costly and inefficient processes supported by outdated technology or manual procedures.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-centered justice institutions can use a digital-first approach to improve, digitize and automate citizen interactions and internal processes.
The British Columbia Ministry of Attorney General in Canada 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 have acted independently and implemented technology solutions in silos, leading to fragmented application portfolios, complex and costly application maintenance and technology debt. The TTI is delivering a common technology platform that will enable 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). This innovative platform will deliver earlier and more thorough information to promote awareness, meet rising citizen experience expectations, usher in modern service standards and increase efficiency and throughput.
Two innovative cloud-based applications support the TTI: the Solution Explorer (SE) and the Dispute Resolution Suite (DRS), a full-featured, end-to-end digital justice case management system. By focusing on three key layers—business transformation, user experience and technology transformation (BXT)—the SE and DRS are delivering multi-channel access to justice that’s easier, faster, fairer and more affordable for all British Columbians.
The SE and DRS are built on Salesforce’s Force.com 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. This aligns with the intent to introduce them to up to 20 BC government tribunals by 2021 and for them potentially to be used in other areas of the justice sector in British Columbia or other jurisdictions.
The SE 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 information about the 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 full-featured, end-to-end digital justice case management system that integrates with the SE 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, hearing and adjudication of the issue.
Together, the SE and DRS enable transition away from paper-based processes, in-person activities and manual workflows. They’ve addressed several barriers to justice, including disparate and siloed systems, high legal fees, geographical challenges for citizens outside major cities and lengthy, complicated processes.
In July 2016, the SE and DRS supported the launch of Canada’s first digital-by-default tribunal, the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT), which currently has jurisdiction over strata (condo) claims, small claims up to $5,000 and minor motor vehicle injury claims under $50,000.
This will move more than 30,000 cases a year out of the courts. Moving to digital services has also reduced the average citizen cost to resolve a claim online to $125 and is expected to cut the average time to resolve a matter from 7 to11 months to two to three months.
More broadly, the solutions are now being rolled out across a number of tribunals, justice organizations, and other government agencies across BC, and helping them move away from their stove-piped legacy systems, and to implement digital services to greatly improve the experience for both citizens and staff. A number of organizations are already live with the SE and DRS, and more will continue to be onboarded in the next two years.