Configuring justice


‘Responsiveness’ may not be the first word that comes to mind when thinking of improving our procedures.

In countries like the Netherlands, we follow a lengthy legislative process if we want new rules of procedure. Starting with a working group of experts, a lengthy report with proposals, a slimmed down list after consultation with stakeholders, we aim to take big steps that require much time.

New ways emerge.

This month, I spent some time working with our partner in Chennai, India. Modria has a local branch there. A large part of their team of developers previously worked at eBay and PayPal. Rechtwijzer is built on the same software that powers the  resolution centres of these two internet giants. It robustly processes over 60 million disputes per year and runs in the cloud. Safely. Another important feature is its configurability.

During my trip, I learned more about the potential and configuration power of the technology powering Rechtwijzer 2.0.

The design of Rechtwijzer does not depart from regulatory limitations. Instead, it follows the dispute behaviour of people: what steps do they generally take, what information could help them, what support is appropriate during which stage? Research learns us much about these questions and we designed Rechtwijzer accordingly. The real litmus test, however, is bringing it to the real world. Only through an ongoing dialogue with our users we learn what is ‘just-in-time’ delivery of legal information and when is it ‘too early’ or ‘too late’.

Improving procedures thus is more a matter of tinkering. Trying new things and bring it back to the users to learn from them whether it works. With Rechtwijzer 2.0, it is more a matter of configuring the software that powers our procedures. In small, quick steps. Rather than pursuing wholesale change of the rules of procedure.

At HiiL, we are currently building design, development and configuration capacity. So we can become more responsive to the justice needs of our users. How long before our courts and Ministries of Justice hire their first justice technology engineers?


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