Case Studies

Courting success

L to R: Abdulrahim Almudhareb, ITD Director, Dubai Courts and Dr.Ahmed Saeed Bin Hezeem, Director General, Dubai Courts

Dubai Courts continues to invest in and grow its online presence as it works to expand and improve the services it offers citizens and expats.

Dubai Courts, the state’s premier judiciary body strives to achieve public satisfaction by investing in the latest technology to provide speedy judiciary and notary services for the benefit of all. Established in 1970, Dubai Courts offers services including civil and labour oriented judiciary services, legal and civil authentication, execution of judgements and accreditation of lawyers among many others.

Spurred on by the government’s initiative to boost the use of e-services in the state, Dubai Courts has consistently invested in IT platforms to keep customers updated on initiatives, legal procedures and other services, as well as to encourage cross communication between the judicial entity and the users of its services.

At Dubai Courts, the necessity to maintain a robust back end infrastructure that enables increased information sharing across departments and business operations, and the ensuring the usability and availability of on-line channels, makes information technology an integral function.

“IT plays a major role here. Today we are very dependent on IT; all of our internal processes have been fully automated specially for the core business like case management, family attestation and notary services. Employees of Dubai Courts cannot function without their PCs and IT is needed to make sure departments and employees are always connected. To expedite the provision of services and aid operational efficiency we have invested in applications that enable intelligent decision making and case management that make IT’s role that much more significant within our organisation,” says Dr. Ahmed Saeed Bin Hezeem, director general of Dubai Courts.

Keeping in mind the essential role that IT plays within Dubai Courts, the key decision makers within the organisation are exceptionally particular about their choice of partners and developers of technology, says Abdulrahim Almudhareb, director of the IT department, Dubai Courts. “When choosing partners or developers we take into consideration elements like their capability to support the technology and deliver the standards of service we expect, and the expertise and resources that the company has. Most importantly, we choose partners who can share knowledge and add value to the technology and its functionality. Of course, factors like their commitment, reputation and the strength of their presence in the region are also essential.”

Driven by its leadership in the region, Dubai Courts, over the last two years has focused on pushing a portion of its services to an on-line platform. In a continuation of these efforts, the judicial body recently launched an e-notary service, to provide family attestation, notary and case management services via an on-line platform that will enable greater customer satisfaction and increased convenience through 24/7 availability of services.

“We provide many notary services over the counter. Last year alone we served over 168,000 notary applications and you can multiply that by two or three based on the parties involved in each application (specially in the case of family attestations). We have noticed a 10-15% growth in the use and demand of the notary services. We decided that these services could be offered via an on-line channel, as opposed to opening new sites to cater to the increasing demand. The implementation of the e-notary service is also supported by the strategic goal of the Dubai government to promote e-services in the public sector,” explains Dr. Hezeem.

The deployment of the e-notary service began with the process of picking the right developer and partner for the project. In this case Dubai Courts chose AlTaqnyah Business Solutions, a business IT solutions provider and a subsidiary of the ARMS Group of Companies. Says Almudhareb, “AlTaqnyah was chosen for this project because they not only understood the requirements of the project, but were also capable of supporting the infrastructure and providing the skills required for the undertaking.”

Rocky road

Once the developer was chosen, the next task was to study the infrastructure requirements and design an effective platform to deploy the e-notary service. This was followed by integrating the relevant legislation and data via other platforms. Once the initial platform was developed, considerable time was spent testing and monitoring the e-notary service for usability, based on which areas for improvements and errors were noted. According to Almudhareb, the entire process took nearly 18 months.

The e-notary platform developers, Al Taqnyah, helped in integrating the platform, using Adobe Lifecycle and Flex software, with Oracle Database and Portal and Java J2EE PL/SQL. They also integrated the project with the larger Emirates ID and e-payment gateways developed by the Dubai government, so as to optimise resource and document sharing.

As simple as the process sounds, the IT department within Dubai Courts had to tackle a number of challenges when deploying the e-notary service.

“The first challenge was to source the right service because an e-notary application did not exist. The second challenge was then deciding on the right product or platform, one with a dynamic format that is certified to deliver results. In this case we chose Adobe,” he adds.

He also points out, “Knowledge sharing with AlTaqnyah was another challenge. As mentioned earlier this was a one-of-itskind- requirement and designing the right platform for efficient functioning of the system took quite some time.”

Most importantly, according to him, the e-notary service needed to be pushed back to the customer as far as possible, and securing the documents in such a situation was quite a task. “We had to make sure that the notarised document could be authenticated – traditionally done by posting a sticker of authenticity – and then had to ensure that this document could not be forged. Besides we had to make
sure that the security solution we chose would work with the Adobe platform,” he explains.

According to Almudhareb, the relevant files and documents are auto archived in secure portals that may be accessed only by authorised users. Additionally, attested documents and applications are then protected using HD barcode and Watermark forensics technology, to protect the copyright of digital contents and to confirm ownership in the case of conflicts.

“Other challenges associated with the project were related to the pecularities of the legal process such as the need for the users to come in and sign the document or application for certification or the notary service. We have introduced electronic signing devices to ensure that there is only minimal effort involved for our customers. We have developed an intelligent system that changes or updates the content of an application based on any gender or third party additions made to an existing document or application, especially when translating from English to Arabic. This allows for editing or updating of content in an easier manner,” adds Almudhareb.

According to Dr. Hezeem, “The automation of this process has enabled elimination of human errors and subjectivity. We have been able to serve more customers and optimise time management. We have
also been able to save on the costs involved in setting up sites to serve customers. We have also able to automate archiving facilities to save documents, reduce redundancy and repeated trips for customers between the notary branch and their homes or offices where they keep their documents.”

He also points out that although the e-notary service does not support other languages due to legal requirements, Dubai Courts is working on providing an approved guidance template for legal translation from English to Arabic. “We are trying to provide our users with a value add through this service and will launch it soon,” he adds.

Dubai Courts has also invested in what they call the Nibras (meaning North Star in Arabic) system which serves as a kind of information portal to help customers or visitors to navigate around the courts and brief them on court procedures, notary, case management and family attestation in a 3D animation format. The system also provides users with directions to reach other notary branches across Dubai. Most importantly, the technology maintains an updated case tracking system, where visitors and users can check exactly what is happening with their case or application.

“Nibras not only speeds up the queues and processes, but serves customers faster and more efficiently through multimedia and visual information channels,” says Almudhareb. “We will be introducing
some new features to the Nibras, like enhanced navigation and a survey feature that includes details of what counters and services are being used most often and how efficiently users are being serviced,” he adds.

Another significant IT investment has been devoted to developing Barza or the chamber screens that hold the case roll for each court chamber, which is automatically updated to display case timings, the details of the judicial authority, plaintiff and defendant details and case status, among others. “The
screen also allows live video streaming of proceedings inside the chamber to reduce movement to and from the room that oftendisrupt proceedings. The technology has also enabled reduction in paper consumption, and greater transparency between the court and the people it serves among other benefits,” he says.

Dubai Courts as an entity invests in technology for internal productivity measures and external service provision, and in this matrix interacts with multiplevendors and service providers in the region. Almudhareb feels that integration across platforms and hardware belonging to a variety of vendors is a challenge most users in the region face. He believes that there needs to be more collaboration between vendors and developers to offer technologies that work across manufacturing labels. He also points out, “Vendors need to ensure that they support the solutions they have developed or sold to us, and help us maintain and administer the technology. This initiative needs to come from the vendor even when not
communicated by the end user.”

On the subject of security, Dr. Hezeem says, “We have invested in layered security beginning with basic firewalls, antivirus and malware protection, topped with state of the art network and application security measures. On our part, we ensure that these measures and security applications are monitored and checked to ensure that they are effectively performing the functions they should.”

According to him, organisations should understand that the concept of 100% security is theoretical, and must therefore invest in back up and disaster recovery. They should also ensure that effective contingency plans are put in place to ensure minimum recovery time and damage to the organisation and all those associated with it.

Going forward

Empowered by the higher management that is pro IT and understands the need to invest in the latest technology to establish a collaborative system, Dubai Courts is in the process of revising its IT strategy.

Dubai Courts now plans to develop an on-line Case Registration System and the Case Finance Scorecard, an application that will capture all the financial transactions associated with cases to maintain records and enable effective communication of proceeding costs across the court and participants of a case to boost the use of e-services across other core operations.

According to AlMudhareb, “This technology will be integrated with the case management and case accounting systems, and will thus require massive reengineering. This technology will increase transparency and the ability to track movement of funds across all parties involved in a case proceeding. It will also ensure minimum errors in case payment, especially in situations where the amount to be paid must be distributed between a number of plaintiffs. This will also enable faster decision making and better customer services.”

The plan ahead is to invest in technologies that benefit users and optimise internal processes and core operations. In essence Dubai courts has got it all planned out.

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