Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 20th 2017 Contents GERARD BESTWhat happens when the head of the
Caribbean's highest court teams up
with one of the region's most respect-
ed technology minds? The answer
could spell big change for the delivery
The partnership between Sir Dennis Byron and Bevil Wood-
ing fell under a spotlight earlier this year after the Caribbean
Court of Justice announced the successful launch of a custom
software suite designed to help the region's courts to streamline
Byron, a serial court-innovator, and Wooding, an adviser to
governments and corporations, earned praise for spearheading
that advance in the region's justice sector.
It's not every day that the august, hoary-haired judges of
the venerable CCJ break with tradition and embrace technol-
ogy-driven change. But it's not exactly a surprise. By the time
Byron was sworn in as CCJ president in September 2011, his
reputation as a court reformer had been well earned.
In the late 90s, as chief justice of the Eastern Caribbean Su-
preme Court, he led a multi-pronged technological upgrade to
the regional justice system. Then, during his four-year tenure
as president of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda,
he instituted judicial performance management systems still
used as benchmarks to this day.
The flash point came when a mutual acquaintance introduced
Byron to another Caribbean pioneer, the man who would in due
course fashion new technology-driven solutions custom-built
for Caribbean courts.
Bevil Wooding had sprung to international attention in 2009
when he was selected as one of only seven people entrusted
by ICANN, the body overseeing the Internet, to hold a special
cryptographic key to protect---and potentially reboot---the In-
ternet. By then, this soft-spoken trailblazer had already made
his name, quietly assisting regional bodies and local commu-
nities to get the most out of the digital economy.
"Our half-hour appointment extended into a four-hour
conversation about justice, technology, regional politics,
Caribbean integration," Wooding recalls.
Once they agreed to work together on an area of shared in-
terest, and their attention quickly focused on the issue of court
efficiency. Wooding pulled together a team from around the
region and across the diaspora and began a 16-month process
to develop what would become the first comprehensive court
management software suite built from the ground up to meet
Mindful that it would take more than software to change
decades of tradition, they also set about building out a re-
gion-wide network of judges, lawyers, registrars and software
developers---called APEX---to support the initiative.
"Our approach to implementing new technology-enabled
systems is built on collaborative partnerships with justice
stakeholders across the region," Byron explained.
"Every new technology and innovation pushes the courts to
adopt new approaches for how justice is served and how they
account for their activities to the public," Wooding added.
"This is why we have established a formal structure in APEX,
to ensure that all stakeholders have an ongoing say in the evo-
lution of these approaches to administration."
The new software will replace antiquated paper-based pro-
cesses and outdated desktop applications being used in many
Caribbean jurisdictions with simpler web-based workflows.
"The software we've released is built to meet and exceed
global best practice for digitally enhanced courts. But, more
importantly, it's tailored to the specific requirements of Car-
ibbean courts," Wooding said.
And courts in Belize, Jamaica and Guyana are in discussions
to begin pilots of the new systems. These Governments have
also shown their support through financial contributions to
the initiative. For the team, these are only the first steps.
Foundational to their strategy is the development of re-
gion-wide capacity to maintain and expand the systems in the
long term. In other words, they're not interested in handouts.
"Too often the region has to depend on others to define the
technology that drives our own development. That should
not be so for the critical technology that influences how our
courts perform," Byron said.
"Through APEX, our goal is to create an entire value chain
to support development of Caribbean courts and Caribbean
jurisprudence. We are convinced the region has the creativity
to generate intellectual capital capable of sustaining the justice
sector," Wooding stated.
Charting a course to take the Caribbean into a position of
technological strength is neither straightforward nor is it
without significant challenges. But Byron, Wooding and their
growing cast of Caribbean, jurists, lawyers, software devel-
opers and government leaders seem to think it is attainable.
"We may have a long way to go, but for the Caribbean, it is
a journey well worth taking."
JULY 20 • 2017 guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
NEWS | BG7
Modern vision for digitally enhanced courts becomes a Caribbean reality
• an e-filing application that allows
litigants and lawyers to upload their
case files using a web browser, a
mobile phone or a special kiosk
• a case management system that
allows courts to track cases and
generate email and mobile alerts
for key dates and milestones
• a performance management pro-
gram that allows courts to easily
identify and address areas requiring
attention and improvement.
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