An electronic court file that radically changes the course of court proceedings, automatically transcribes court protocols into text, or perhaps updates a commercial registry. These are the projects that the Ministry of Justice is currently working on.
A ten-person team primarily works on core justice digitization projects tasks at the Department of Justice, who create assignments and business analysis for the functions that state systems are supposed to be able to perform. At the moment, he is focused on about thirty projects – whether it is completely new systems or the development of existing ones.
What are the most obstacles that complicate their work? Why isn’t the bidding procedure for state contract basically announced according to their ideas? And how easy is it to get IT experts to the office?
To that and other questions, the Director of the Electronic Justice Department at the Ministry of Justice of the Czech Republic said Przemysl Szymski Ask the Director of the Government Oversight Department and Governmental Digitization Consultant Michel BlahaWho has many years of experience in dealing with e-government. We transcribed part of the interview into text form, which you can listen to in its entirety as a podcast on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcast or here:
We are sitting on the floor of the Ministry of Justice and we must talk about what the Ministry is doing in terms of internal transformation and digitization. Can you introduce yourself first?
I have been working in the Ministry of Justice for five years in various positions, for the past two years I have been the Director of the Electronic Justice Department. Our department is responsible for the so-called business analysis, so we participate in digital projects by analyzing the basic functional requirements of systems and creating a business architecture for how these systems work. So we are not the only ones involved in the projects, of course we cooperate directly with the employees – the IT department, who are responsible for the IT architecture, and with project managers and other team members.
What is your team size?
She currently has ten people including me.
What about the IT department? How is your power divided? Do they take care of operational things? Or do they include public contracts? Or how are you?
exactly. The Informatics department is primarily responsible for infrastructure, cyber security and finance and has its own budget for digitization. He is responsible for the long-term operation of those systems. Our department is primarily involved in the new requirements of both existing and new systems. But we are no longer responsible for the finances. We are only partially responsible for cybersecurity.
This means that when you make a general order for a project, for example, are you part of the team setting up the task?
Yes, we are getting the job ready. We call this a core business task, so we say, for example, an app must have these functions and it must operate in accordance with this law. For example, there are some requirements written in the law, and we will analyze them further, we will say that this requirement means that the system must enable these different functions, and they must be accessed by these different users. Instead, we can contribute some other requirement, that there has to be some responsiveness, that some functionality is a priority and it has to be fast, accessible from different places. This is our primary business.
How many projects are you currently working on and what are they?
We currently have about thirty projects in our portfolio that we must do. In most cases these are “must have” projects, we just have to do them at some point. However, they have different priorities: something that legislative regulations do not fully support, but that we have to do, for example, because the older system is no longer useful and it does not make sense to develop further conceptually. So we have about 30 projects in the stack, and priority is, say, up to a dozen projects.
What exactly are you working on?
Now the eSpis project, the e-court file, is an absolute priority for us. Years later, we were able to launch a generic contract, or rather we already have a supplier and we started working with it in some initial stages. We’re excited about it, we’re finally working on this, which is crucial for future justice. With that, we begin a new era of information systems. We miss the online version and the professional audience demands it too.
Other priority projects include, for example, the Court Decisions Database, which I believe has already been operating in beta mode for over a year. It already contains nearly 200,000 decisions, and the public can read anonymous rulings or court decisions in general somewhat anonymously, as clarity of decision and justification is preserved. We achieved this by creating an anonymization tool that they use in the courts. But this project is ongoing, because we want to make the entire publishing process more sustainable.
We learned a lot from this project. The audience may wonder why not all decisions are in this database. But it’s not that simple. We have to believe that users in the courts who publish the decisions feel some relief and that it is not unduly a burden on them. All the steps we are taking now are making the anonymization app more user-friendly and automated.
When you have an electronic court file, will publishing court decisions help you?
Certainly, we believe that the decisions to be generated in the electronic file are in a form and structure that anonymity can handle more easily.
These are relatively new projects. You’ve probably mixed up in some way that, in addition to the new products, you’re also developing existing ones, is that right?
exactly. You recently underwent the development or linking of beneficial owners registry, you may remember. Combined with public records: with the commercial registry and other people’s records. This was a major change in the systems.
But it is not very visible from the outside.
It may sound trivial, but it was a collaboration between two suppliers. One of them had the original system and the new supplier was supposed to integrate this system and “integrate” it into the ISVR system. And when two suppliers have to agree, that can also be a problem. There was too little time for that, too. But in the end I find it very positive. Other than that, everything actually started working decently on day one and we don’t have any major issues with it.
If I remember correctly, it was three or four months from the date of its release until its release.
I don’t remember exactly, but I think you’re right. It was too short a time to coordinate such a large project. For this reason, I consider it successful despite the fact that there are minor problems.
We the people who work with opendata – whether we’re at State Watchdog or journalists – jumped into this data source. But we were very surprised that the open data, which was published for the first 14 days in the register of real owners, changed after that and was not very rich. Lots of information is missing.
I don’t have exact information about what the dataset would look like, but maybe there was some post automation and then it changed according to requirements, which might be standard on other datasets. I think further development of the registry is planned, so I hope that will satisfy general data analysts.
Let’s face it, it’s not good now. The data is taken out of the database without a lot of requests and storage and is not documented, so it is very difficult to process a lot of information. But this is almost a common problem, especially with the more complex data the country publishes. Anyway: This falls under the commercial register. Is the record a project belonging to that group of thirty? Is there any development planned?
Yes, it has a planned development. At the moment we are deciding which direction it should go. Given the number of applications made, the amount of information published in the register and in connection with many legislative requirements that come, for example, from the European Union, there has to be a rapid development of the system and a rebuilding of some parts. It will lead to a recent trend: Complete electronic submissions will be generated, and saved automatically.
This is pretty much something behind me, sort of something invisible.
It’s an invisible thing, but on the front end it should probably start with this full electronic transmission. We hope it works.
You have five projects in the NRP, and one of them is called the Justice Gateway. Are they related or not?
It is partially related. The justice portal should be given a new look and should be prepared for a modern generation of systems, for example, to connect to modules that will allow full electronic filing.
I see something else on the list which is courtroom audio and a transcript. I had the impression that this project has been running for a very long time, and may even have already been completed. Is this a sequel?
Yes, they are different sub-projects that are getting progressively more mature and mature. The project you may have had in mind is already in the past, because courts have a tool that allows them to dictate decisions on a machine or in a computer or in some dictation and they can transcribe audio to text for them. But we’re now trying to have the courtroom recordings automatically get into text messages as well.
So maybe cross-examination and other things happen in the courtroom?
Simply, yes. Today the logs have to be written manually, now we are trying to automate the transcription. We think it can save a lot of work.
That’s cool. Will the audio recordings be preserved?
It is not so simple at the moment, we are now dealing with where to store them or for how long. Of course, recordings from long hours of meetings will be huge, not small amounts of data. We think the text could be more usable.
Which of the projects you have in the pipeline are you most personally looking forward to?
to the electronic file. In this regard, we have a huge shortage, but again, it is not very common in Europe, or at least I did not notice it. It will enable us to access the electronic content of the court file from home. This will completely change the way the justice system works, because, for example, the Prague lawyer will not have to travel to Ostrava to examine the file for half an hour. This will completely change the economics of court proceedings and save an enormous amount of time.
Perhaps it will speed up court proceedings, too. If I remember correctly, it often happens that a court orders a file, and therefore the proceedings must be interrupted, because the file is not actually in the court where it should be.
exactly. This will not be resolved by the view function, but we are trying to make the electronic file available in the agenda system for the purposes of internal organization of the courts. Therefore, the Tribunals will be able to view the content of the electronic file as internal users and do not have to dispute it.
When is it supposed to end?
We believe that in 2023 the pilot can start working and we can have functional prototypes of the applications that will actually be feasible by a certain percentage and we will be able to test real cases and the possibility of using all the functionality in practice.
How difficult is it to attract quality IT experts to a state office? And what delays digitization projects more than others? You can listen to the entire interview as a podcast:
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