The Judiciary of Tanzania is undergoing digital transformation as it looks to increase transparency, efficiency and speed up the dispensation of justice in the country’s courts, Chief Justice Prof Ibrahim Juma has said.
Speaking at the Judiciary Workers Council on Wednesday, Prof Juma wanted changes of mindset on the part of employees regardless of the cadres, as they migrate towards digital, leaving behind the perception and traditions which have been hindering efficiency.
Opening the meeting, the CJ said that the judiciary in its larger efforts to modernise the judicial system with the help of modern technology, is using digital tools such as virtual court sessions and e-filing system to enhance transparency and improve citizens’ access to justice.
He called upon the Chief Court Administrator, Prof Elisante Ole Gabriel, to check the preparedness as the Judiciary is migrating to digital and that the transition should be smoothly conducted.
Prof Juma said when they are fully digital, delays in cases hearing and conduct of proceedings would be a history as the files could be traced online, thus smoothing the dispensation of justice.
He said currently, land conflict cases can take up to 15 years from lower court to the Court of Appeal, but under the digital system, the situation will change for the better.
He insisted safety and security of the documents will be guaranteed, adding that complaints of misplacements or loss of case files under the digital system will no longer be there.
The CJ said the employees must be provided with special training on digital and system operations to ensure they all have basic digital skills, which will assist them to know the challenges and work on the solutions.
Moreover, he said, remote and hard to reach areas must be a priority, thus he directed the Chief Court Administrator to ensure the online infrastructure is being fixed and tested for its efficiency.
He used the platform to call upon the judicial officers to be well versed with the updated judiciary administration regulations and scheme of service to ease their operations and service dispensations.
Prof Juma said the government has improved infrastructure, including erecting modern buildings among others, hence, judicial officers’ services must match the quality and state of an art of the structures.
Presenting a performance report, Prof Ole Gabriel said switching from a paper-based filing system to a digital format is expected to help clear a large backlog of cases and ease the burden of time-consuming legal processes and procedures.
The Chief Court Administrator of Tanzania’s judiciary pointed out that the ongoing reforms are aimed at ensuring that legal proceedings are operated efficiently.
“We have installed computers and e-filing systems at different levels to improve efficiency and effectiveness of courts,” Prof Ole Gabriel said.
According to the chief court administrator, the e-filing system that is being introduced in courts at different levels will enable litigants to file and track their cases easily.
“Courts should explore the emerging digital possibilities as the citizens have growing expectations that services will be delivered digitally,” he said.
However, he warned that digitizing all case files and records would take a long time and paperwork would most likely be kept as a backup plan in case of technical glitches.
The judiciary is using cutting-edge digital technologies to save time and money, and speed up the delivery of justice as part of the initiative, which includes training court officers, building new court facilities and introducing mobile courts to bring services closer to people who were excluded in the past.