Imagine how many courts across Myanmar could provide legal services to the communities if they had extra clerks and court officials available to staff legal aid desks at One Stop Shops, or to operate help desks at the township courts to answer questions from the public about how to fill out complaints or other court documents Hiring more people is not realistic given the resource limitations of the civil service of Myanmar. The solution may be found by unlocking the potential of the current workforce of the judiciary by increasing the efficiency of reporting and streamlining human resources towards new and valuable services that directly serve the needs of the public.

Modern systems can be developed to reduce the current reporting workload of court personnel. On 14 to 16 August in Nay Pyi Taw, the Federal Court of Australia (FCA) and the Office of the Union Supreme Court of the Union (OSCU), together with the United Nations Development Programmed (UNDP), held its third workshop to discuss making this a reality through the on-going efforts of UNDP and the OSCU to develop a Case Information System – a smartphone and tablet based application to allow clerks to upload basic case information about pending matters before the court. Once in place, the application can satisfy the needs of the Union Supreme Court Directors, who need information about different types of cases without requiring court staff at the trial level to go through all their files manually to find the data requested by the Union Supreme Court.

Court officials from Mandalay and the Supreme Court of the Union commence the workshop on improving case data and information management in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar

At the workshop, court staff and judges from the Mandalay Region were invited to discuss the current reporting obligation and explain to senior OSCU officials how much time and effort compiling these reports takes every month. Unfortunately, there is not always strong communication paths between OSCU officials in Nay Pyi Taw and their colleagues working at the township and regional level. The OSCU needs information about what is happening in the courts to develop Union wide solutions to improve the justice system, while the local courts need to provide this information whilst managing and dispensing justice for people in their communities. The reporting obligations interfere with the ability of trial courts to provide justice services because they are time consuming. Informing the OSCU officials about the real-life consequences of their requests for reports was a critical step towards building momentum to bring the case information system to reality.

About two years ago, UNDP studied how the township level, district and regional courts collect information about their existing caseloads. Unsurprisingly, yet l remarkable that the forms used at the township level dated back to the colonial times and were not relevant to the modern era. Clerks often take photos of the court registry with their phone and send them to the Regional High Courts, where clerks would open the picture on their phone and re-write the same information manually. This process is prone to human error and requires thousands of hours of manual work that can be done automatically through a well-designed application that will require only a few minutes per case to populate with relevant data.

Mr. Ahilan Mackinam, the Manager of Business Intelligence Services of the Federal Court of Australia describes some of the information they collect to ensure that reports are meaningful but not overly burdensome for staff to compile

 At the OSCU in Nay Pyi Taw, a companion program will then generate reports based on the incoming data from the trial courts and provide real time information about what types of cases and parties are being heard in the formal justice system.

This workshop also supports the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Federal Court of Australia and the OSCU to exchange information and to provide technical support from the FCA. UNDP supports this MOU to help the OSCU develop enhanced Annual Reports and apply critical thinking to court data to better analyze the information they receive from the lower courts. UNDP supported externship exchanges with the FCA with OSCU officials visiting the FCA in Sydney to learn how they collect and process court data for their annual reports. UNDP also supported high level workshops with the FCA Chief Registrar and the OSCU on Change Management and Court Leadership.

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