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Why Kenya's digital courts got praises from Estonian leader at UN

Numerous cases of poor technology connectivity and expensive data bundles were cited as reasons to halt the process

In Summary
  • During the courts digital roll out, numerous cases of poor technology connectivity and expensive data bundles involved were cited as reasons to halt the process.
  • Some quarters also argued that the Kenyan population served by the courts were not yet ready for the move.
Estonian president Kersti Kaljulaid attending a cocktail party at State House, Nairobi on Thursday night.
Estonian president Kersti Kaljulaid attending a cocktail party at State House, Nairobi on Thursday night.
Image: CJ

Kenyan justice system earned praises last week from the ongoing UN General Assembly meeting in New York for mainstreaming technology in conduct of court proceedings in the wake of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

Estonian president Kersti Kaljulaid saluted the country’s justice system saying technology has enabled quick access to justice by cutting off the otherwise barriers like long distance travel to courts.

Kaljulaid, who addressed the assembly on September 22, dedicated the opening of her remarks to single out the director of public prosecution Noordin Haji for “ensuring that Kenyans can tune to courts to receive verdicts while unable to travel, unable to meet.”

“Kenya is not turning back because even when travel will be safe again, why should someone take a trip of hundreds of kilometres to be heard” Kaljulaid said.

“This is encouraging example.”

Digital court processes, including e-filing of the case documents and digital payment of the court fees was rolled out by former Chief Justice David Maraga in early 2020 as part of the measures to curtail spread of the virus and ease access to justice.

In July 2020, he launched the e-filing portal https://efiling.court.go.ke where all lawyers, police, DPP and members of the public are required to register themselves through to log into the Judiciary system.

Upon logging in, one is expected to upload documents and also assess court fees. Subsequently, one has to submit the files to the registry online for the matter to be filed and placed before a judge for hearing.

At the time, the roll out was met with various challenges, including a hostile reception by a section of litigants who complained that the Judiciary was not ready for the move.

Numerous cases of poor technology connectivity and expensive data bundles involved were cited as reasons to halt the process.

Some quarters also argued that the Kenyan population served by the courts were not yet ready for the move.

But Maraga was adamant to push on, asserting that all the challenges emerging would be dealt with as and when they arise.

Estonia is regarded as the world’s most advanced digital society where the citizen’s ID cards are regarded as valid and secure digital signatures for all operations.

In the country of 1.3 million people, whether you are filing tax returns, booking train tickets, or voting for their leaders, the ID cards are digitally configured to suffice. It is the the first country globally to hold its elections online.

Kaljulaid was in the country on September 9 for an  official three-day visit during which she was engaged in a flurry of activities including a bilateral meeting with government officials led by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Among areas she visited was Kenya School of government where she was shown how teaching and activities at the institution are done digitally for remote operation in the wake of the pandemic.

Her visit was billed as opportunity to explore how her country can help Kenya advance digitally in conformance with the tech economy.

-Edited by SKanyara