Improving Access to Justice in the Digital Age

A Paper Presented at the Symposium and Award for the Inter Class Moot Competition of the West African Law Students Association (WALSA) Bayero University Kano Chapter in collaboration with Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) held on Monday 26/2/2024 at Hassan Gwarzo Court Room Faculty of Law Bayero University, Kano State.

By: Chief Ikenna C. Ekpunobi Esq.


Access to justice in every society is majorly determined by the modalities and mechanisms put in place to aid, support, enhance and improve the justice delivery system. The world is dynamic in terms of social, scientific and technological development. In the light of its evolving nature, the world has moved from the analogue age of technological development to digital age. Digital age is one characterized by the use of computer and related gadgets and programs by man. It is the supersonic jet age. The era of Internet of things.

Recently there has been developments and innovations tailored towards enhancing justice delivery which has led to the introduction of court management systems. This ranges from case filing systems, case management of the court processes, case registration, case reporting and filing system, virtual proceedings, audio visual conferencing, electronic filing systems and electronic service of court processes, electronic recording of court proceedings, to delivery of judgment; through the use of computerized tools aimed at enhancing the process of justice delivery.

Nevertheless, every innovation, sphere and stage of life comes with its attendant challenges and the digital age is not precluded in this. This paper considers how the benefits of the digital age or ICT i.e Information and Communication Technology can be employed and applied in enhancing and improving access to justice.


a. Access to Justice:

The term ‘access to justice’ includes all the substantive and procedural mechanisms existing in a society, designed to ensure that citizens have the opportunity of seeking redress for the violation of their legal rights within the legal system. It focuses on the existing rules and procedures used by citizens in approaching the courts for the determination of their civil rights and obligations.

It may also be defined as the means by which people seek and obtain remedies through formal or informal institutions of justice for grievance in compliance with human rights standards.[1] Access to Justice is ‘the ability of all people to seek and obtain effective remedies through accessible, affordable, impartial, efficient, effective and culturally competent institutions of justice’.

It is the ability of people to obtain just resolution of justiciable problems in compliance with human rights standards through formal or informal institutions of justice and with appropriate legal support.[2] In the court setting, access to justice includes fairness with which litigants’ cases are treated; the justness of the result or judgment delivery and the speed with which cases are adjudicated upon.

b. Digital Age or Information Communication Technology (ICT): This is information and computer age, silicon age, new media age or third industrial revolution. It is generally considered to be that time in the 21century starting with the widespread use of the internet, when there was a shifted from traditional industry to an economy based on information and communication technology.

It is characterized by an advancement from traditional industries to an economy centered on digital and information technology. This has brought about a replacement of the traditional or non-digital processes to the digital ones, thus completely changing the mode of accessing justice for the better.

Improving access to justice in Digital or ICT Age involves adopting new tools, ways and manners of justice service delivery, case management, court proceedings, engagement with client and many more. It entails the enhancement of the justice system into the digital age by embracing relevant technologies towards improving judicial service delivery.


The origin of ICT law is intimately related to the development of the communication systems and computer Technology. Recently, data protection laws grew as a reaction to the development and rapid advances in ICT. While the law dates back to centuries of existence, ICT law did not emerge until the second half of the last century due to the emergence of computerized systems.

In the last 25 years the telecommunications environment around the world changed dramatically, creating what is called “the Internet Age” in communications. The growth of the Internet and the World Wide Web (WWW), and the massive on-going improvements in a variety of telecommunications technologies, have thrown up new legal issues, creating a need of new legal frameworks and regulations, hence the need for a separate field of ICT law.[3]


Developments in digital technologies have induced profound changes in the way that legal services and legal dispute resolution bodies operate. Websites and internet-based tools offer individuals help with specific legal problems.

Improving access to justice is the way by which judicial service delivery is enhanced by the use of the innovation we are endowed with by the digital age. In other words, it is the digitization and or the application digital mechanisms in the delivery of justice. In other to fully appreciate the need to improving access to justice in a digital age, there is a need to understand and come to terms with the prevailing state of affairs as it relates to access to justice.

The digital age together with its technological advancement has made available several technological innovations with the capacity to better judicial service delivery such as technological innovations in the area of oral, telegraphic and written communications e.g. smart phone, WhatsApp and Email, Zoom, Google meet, skype, FaceTime etc.; cataloguing system programs/applications and software; financial payment system, artificial intelligence powered programs.


a. Engagements of a legal practitioner both to the court and client:

1. Access to legislations and case laws and law reports e.g. Law Pavilion, Legal Pedia, Law Care Nigeria, and a host of other websites, web applications and softwares.

2. Legal commentaries, materials and resources.

3. Use of online platform and research tools

4. Artificial intelligence powered programs for preliminary consultations, research, (the capacity of AI powered programs keep increasing.

5. Through a variety of digital channels lawyers may now interact with clients, co-counsel and stakeholders (e.g. WhatsApp, zoom, skype, FaceTime, and many others) facilitating remote cooperation and decreasing the need for in-person meetings.

6. Cataloguing, recording and placement of files, documents and information.

7. Transfer, transmission and dissemination of information all across the globe thereby obliterating travel costs, time, risks and expenses.


b. Dispensation of justice by the courts or in judicial process

1. Expedite justice delivery

2. Electronic filing, E-signature and E-stamping

3. Electronic payment options for filing fees, default fees, fines, etc.

4. Electronic service of court processes

5. Audio/audio-visual recording

6. Virtual court proceedings

7. Translator gadgets from word to text

8. Development of E-Court

9. Video conferencing system

10. Case management, and online access to case information. (The initiative has also introduced virtual court hearings and video conferencing, which have helped to reduce delays caused by physical distance. an online system for tracking case progress).

c. E-Courts.

One of the huge impact of digitization in the administration of justice is the introduction of Electronic court (E-court). The concept of e-courts, also known as digital courts or online courts, has gained prominence. E-courts facilitate the efficient management and processing of cases, offering litigants an avenue for seeking justice through electronic means.

This technological development aims to enhance the organization of court proceedings and provide accessible justice for all parties involved. Customized softwares and systems such as online library, research tool kits, judgment wizard etc., could be developed to meet general and specific needs of judicial officers and support staff in these areas[4].

E-court is a court which has a well-developed technical infrastructure. This infrastructure is usually designed to allow parties, participants and other stakeholders to better operate some administrative and procedural aspects of the court’s functions, such as presenting evidence, filing judicial records (electronic court filing) or receiving testimony remotely.

Often referred to as a paperless court, its objective is, in part, to reduce the reliance on paper or hard-copy documents during the judicial process. On a larger scale, an electronic court is usually implemented to increase the efficiency of the court by expediting access to information.
The International Criminal Court in The Hague is often cited as a good example of an electronic court.

To achieve the flawless results and response of the E-courts, the infrastructure is a main element wherein the efficiency and the credibility of the E-courts could be defined. To achieve maximum efficiency with flawless operations and at minimum costs, the following infrastructural requirements needs investment, improvements, and adequate technological backup:

i.  Video Conferencing System (VCA): Remote hearings are possible with the VCS, allowing judges, attorneys, and other parties to participate from anywhere across the globe. This is especially useful when someone is unable to physically attend due to travel restrictions or health difficulties and long distances which are uneconomical and time consuming.

ii. Court Management System (CMA): The CMA is a web-based system that manages the whole court process, from case registration to judgment delivery. Because it is a coherent system, information may easily flow across numerous departments and stakeholders.

iii. Document Management System (DMS): Court documents may be digitally saved and transferred by authorized personnel at any time and from any location using the DMS. Physical documentation is no longer necessary, which saves time.

iv. Electronic Display System (EDS): The EDS is a system that displays court procedures, such as case status, case lists, and cause lists, on electronic screens around the court complex. This eliminates the need for needless physical travel within the court complex and ensures that interested parties are brought up to date on the proceedings in real time.

v. The Court Recording and Transcription System (CRTS) records and transcribes court hearings for use as references or evidence. As a result, handwritten notetaking is no longer required, and records are accurate and thorough[5].


a. Applying ICT or the Digital Age in the course of administration of justice invariable will improve access to justice and justice delivery. Doing so will reduce the constraints and obstacles confronting the justice delivery system such as prolong litigation and lengthy court sittings, long delays in adjudicatory process, long adjournments, over reliance on technicalities especially as it relates to authentication and admissibility of electronic generated evidence, decongestion of courts and prisons, service and proof of service of court process, payment of fees and fines in court, data storage, etc.

E-Court initiatives hold immense potential to revolutionize the operations of judicial systems. By leveraging technology and digital tools, e-courts can expedite legal procedures, enhance access to justice, and reduce delays.

b. Digitalization in the legal sector/industry is viewed as a way to improve access to justice. Digitalization is viewed as a pre-condition to ensure effective justice in the modern era. It is presumed to help tackle delays, enhance legal certainty, and make justice cheaper and more accessible for all. Technology is used to improve and optimize and automate our traditional ways of working, bring new efficiencies and make our professional lives easier. It involves grafting new technology onto old working practices, displacing and revolutionizing conventional working habits and bring radical change – doing new things, rather than old things in new ways.

c. One of the benefits attributed to digitalization of legal services is that online services are available to justice seekers from any geographic location. If individuals have access to the internet, it does not matter where or when they want to use these services. There is no travel time or travel costs involved, and physical contact is not necessary. Due to their high accessibility, it is assumed that individuals are likely to use online legal services to act upon problems that they used to leave unresolved due to costs or efforts involved. Thus advantages of such services are considered to be greater than their disadvantages (e.g. those stemming from the lack of personal contact). It is also expected that, as working processes will be more efficient (or more ‘automated’), legal services will be cheaper and quicker. Moreover, during the COVID-19 pandemic, e-courts have played a vital role by providing a means to sustain judicial proceedings while mitigating the risk of virus transmission.


  1. Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As amended)
  2. The Nigerian Communications Act, CAP N97, LFN 2004[7].
  3. National Environmental Standards Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) Act of 2007
  4. National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) Act of 2007
  5. The Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) Act 2015.
  6. Evidence Act, 2011 (As amended)
  7. National Broadcasting Commission Act, Cap. N11, LFN 2004
  8. Guidelines for the Provision of Internet Service
  9. United Nations Commission On International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)[8] Model Law on Electronic Commerce 1996
  10. UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Signatures 2001[9]
  11. UN Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts; etc.[10]


There are numerous challenges in achieving comprehensive and equal access to justice due to various factors, including deficiencies in the judicial infrastructure, inadequate allocation of resources, and a lack of public awareness regarding their legal entitlements, ensuring equal access to justice for people who cannot easily access internet and/or who have poor digital skills; technological failures, malfunctions and biases (allegedly) inherent in automation; ensuring security and privacy of court data and digital illiteracy.

Additionally, ensuring universal accessibility to the e-court system, particularly for individuals without internet access or technological devices, poses another obstacle that must be addressed.


a. Although digitalization has brought about a change in the operation of legal services and of legal systems in general, access to justice remains an essential part of effective judicial protection, a core element of the rule of law and of democratic societies.

As technological advancements continue to unfold, it is expected that the use of digital tools in legal problem resolution will enhance access to justice.

b. Communication and information are the basis for all social order, both of which ought to be checked or monitored through the justice delivery system in the digital age. In today’s world of global communication, the importance of ICT to all sectors of the economy is well recognized. It has been seen how useful ICT can be used to solve the many problems of the justice administration system.

c. ICT will improve the standard of organization and effectiveness of justice administration by moving the judiciary away from the current paper based approach and by connecting the nation’s lawyers and judicial systems online. The need for use of ICT in training the judiciary cannot be over emphasized. Since ICT facilitates distant learning, it will surely enable lawyers and judges to keep up to date with national legal matters, and with the international scene as well, so that the Nigeria judiciary can also comply with the world best practices.

d. There is need to replicate in other various courts, the good trend of the use of ICT based innovation in recording and typing court proceedings as found in some areas in Federal Capital Territory FCT and at Federal High Court No.1 and No.3 sitting at Gyadi Gyadi, Court road, kano (and some few other courts across the federation).

This will singularly save lots of time wasted in dispensation of justice hitherto when Judges must write by longhand. With this innovation, more cases can be heard and determined in a day, because our Judges will no longer get tired and wearied easily from long hours of writing and recording proceedings by long hand. In the long run justice will no longer be delayed. This is amongst the core value in the digital age in improving the access to justice.

e. Finally, there is also need for a robust legal and regulatory framework which will help to watch over the increasing applicability of the digital age. Also improved data protection and privacy laws are needed to curtail the staggering horrors and challenges of the digital age.[11]



  1. Halima Doma, in her article: Enhancing Justice Administration in Nigeria through Information and Communications Technology (2016) pg.17
  2. Nyaya Bandhu, Pro Bono Legal Services, (last visited on February 24, 2024).
  3. Justice Abubakar, NPOM, then acting Chief Judge of Katsina State in his DAILY Trust Publication on Tuesday, April 10, 2018; accessed online on Saturday 24/2/2014 by 10am
  4. (last visited on February 24, 2024)
  5. (last visited on February 24, 2024)
  6. Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As amended)
  7. The Nigerian Communications Act, CAP N97, LFN 2004[12].
  8. National Environmental Standards Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) Act of 2007
  9. National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) Act of 2007
  10. The Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act 2015.
  11. Evidence Act, 2011 (As amended).
  12. Electronic Transactions Act
  13. National Broadcasting Commission Act, Cap. N11, LFN 2004
  14. Guidelines for the Provision of Internet Service
  15. UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Commerce
  16. UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Signatures
  17. UN Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts.


[1] (last visited on February 24, 2024)

[2] (last visited on February 24, 2024)

[3] Information & Communications Technology Law In Nigeria 2017, A Comparative Reader, by Abdulsalam O. Ajetunmobi pages 1 and 2.

[4] Justice Abubakar, NPOM, then acting Chief Judge of Katsina State in his DAILY Trust Publication on Tuesday, April 10, 2018; accessed online on Saturday 24/2/2014 by 10am

[5] Nyaya Bandhu, Pro Bono Legal Services, (last visited on February 24, 2024).

[6] There are other legal frameworks governing ICT or Digital law in Nigeria and there is need for more.

[7] By section 3(1) of the Nigerian Communications Act, Cap N97, LFN, 2004 the NCA establishes the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) as a primary regulatory body with the responsibility of regulating the entire communication sectors in Nigeria.

[8] This is the core legal body of the United Nations system in the field of international trades law, with a mandate to further the progressive harmonization and unification of the law of international trade. The commission is composed of seventy member states elected by the General Assembly. Of course Nigeria is a member state of the United Nations, so this law applies in Nigeria by the reason of it’s ratification.

[9] This aims to enable and facilitate the use of electronic signatures by establishing criteria of technical reliability for the equivalence between electronic and handwritten signatures.

[10] Kindly search out these legal instruments for the purposes of continuous studies and research.

[11] Halima Doma, in her article: Enhancing Justice Administration in Nigeria through Information and Communications Technology (2016) pg.17

[12] By section 3(1) of the Nigerian Communications Act, Cap N97, LFN, 2004 the NCA establishes the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) as a primary regulatory body with the responsibility of regulating the entire communication sectors in Nigeria.


About the Author 

Chief I.C Ekpunobi Esq., LLM in ICT law, (BUK) in view, LLB, BL (UNN), has been in active legal practice and consultancy with about two decades of experience. He is the founder and Principal Solicitor at ‘Giants Law Firm’ and also the prime mover of ‘Giants Law Firm, Prison Outreach and Rehabilitation’ which engages in rendering legal services to indigent, helpless and oppressed prisoners, including the less privileged in the society etc.

He can be reached via: 08036629201; 08051869368

Email: [email protected]


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