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Dubai Courts discusses MENA’s first e-notary service

Dubai Courts recently completed the MENA region’s first implementation of an e-notary system. At a conference conducted yesterday by Al-Taqnyah, which was Dubai Courts partner in the implementation, spokespeople from the judicial organisation discussed in detail the roadmap and strategy they followed for the successful completion of the project.

Usman Zafar, MD, Al Taqnyah Business Solutions said, “The vision behind the e-notary service was to create a usable portal that encouraged the public to use online services as much as possible. It was also meant to automate manual processes, enable better project governance and facilitate notary public users with a simple and flexible solution that may be used while expending minimum effort.”

The key challenge for the developers of the e-notary platform was integrating dynamically scattered information across various federal and civil agencies such as Criminal Justice department, fire department, correctional institutes, Homeland security and other regional centres of operation. “The idea was to collect, integrate, and analyse the scattered pieces of data and information required to assemble the big picture,” said Zafar.

The first step, according to Zafar, to face the challenges of any deployment is to ensure that the project strategy remainsseamlessly aligned with the business priorities and focus.   In the case of the e-notary project, this was identified as customer centricity. “This meant, developing a virtual integrated platform, that enabled effective utilisation of assets at minimum costs, while providing users with optimum flexibility,” he said.

Zafar added, “Although the planning stage is crucial, plans in the form of static documents are ineffective. Plans must include actionable information environments that constantly evolve and the planning environment must transition seamlessly into command and control environment for a solution to be deployed effectively.”

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.

“The vendors understood that the e-notary platform would provide its users guidance towards  speedier and accurate attestation processes so as to enable effective time management at minimal costs to both the judicial body and its users,” said Zafar.

The e-notary service currently provides several benefits to users, including providing guidance on the process, automating saving of requests, and enabling a more efficient attestation process once they have all the documents necessary for the same. Users can also schedule appointments online for the relevant attestation process. In addition to this, the system also saves copies of the attestation documents so that they can be re-used or even saved as a template. This reduces the number of repeat visits a users would have to make to notary bodies.

Zafar assured the audience that the attestation files and documents are archived in secure portals that may be accessed only by authorised users and are protected by such measures including watermark forensics – a technology developed to protect the copyright of digital contents, and which can be used to confirm ownership in the case of conflicts.

The e-notary portal follows in the footsteps of the precedent set by the Court of Cremon in Italy. The principal judge from the Italian court,  Judge Pierpalolo Beluzzi ,spearheaded and developed the successful DIGIT e-justice pilot project that digitise documents in criminal proceedings and the virtualise courtrooms in the European country back in 2004.

Judge Beluzzi was invited to the conference, specifically to discuss the details of the DIGIT implementation.

According to Beluzzi, the dematerialisation of criminal proceedings was a gradual process beginning with the initiative to convert paper trial dossiers to PDFs. “The result was massive savings in time and money as well as optimisation of storage space and increased and convenient collaboration between lawyers, defendants, clerks and all other parties involved in a criminal proceeding,” he explained.

Beluzzi added, “With the combined efforts of our hardworking internal workforce, smart technology partners and greater ideas, we were able to create a portal for justice that most thought was impossible.”

The DIGIT solution is now being deployed across all the Courts of Italy, encompassing 165 courts in total, as part of the plan for e-government 2012.

The conference, which was aimed at government and public sector end-users, was inaugurated by His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and was attended by such dignitaries as General Dahi Khalfan, chief of Dubai Police and representatives from Dubai Courts, the Ministry of Justice, among many others.

“Our goal is to empower users with value added services as well as streamline processes, improve efficiency and save time. We hope this conference will be a positive step towards building more awareness about projects like DIGIT and e-notary within the MENA region, while being inspirational for any public sector entity aiming to achieve e-transformation,” said Eng. Yasir Hassan Al Naeem, CEO, ARMS Group, parent company of Al Taqnyah business solutions who helped Dubai Government deploy the e-Notary initiative.

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