What is the problem?
Despite nearly twenty years of efforts to improve the efficiency, transparency, and professionalism of Kosovo’s judicial system, many citizens, lawyers, businesses, and civil society organizations (CSOs) participating in or monitoring court proceedings experience a judicial process that is frequently slow, uneven, and opaque. Information related to judicial processes is difficult to access and obtain. As a result, citizens are often unaware and uncertain of what to expect during the proceedings, what type of outcomes could they receive, and they often find it difficult to obtain information about their court case. Lack of readily available information about court proceedings, including case status, to whom was the case assigned, what actions have been taken by the court, and the anticipated next actions, causes citizens to experience uncertainty and distrust in the justice system. Moreover, most of the information available to the public comes from CSOs and news articles that portray the judiciary in a negative light, and ignore achievements and progress. Furthermore, judicial institutions themselves are in the early stages of developing and implementing communication strategies to inform the public of their work. Thus, information coming from the judiciary is often slow, incomplete, and inefficient. Finally, whether the user is a citizen trying to understand their case, court personnel trying to assess their overall performance, or civil society and academic researchers who would like to understand, analyze, and suggest reforms in the judicial system, the available judicial data is published in nonuser-friendly formats and is challenging to understand.
Although the judicial system has improved its efficiency, by reducing its backlog over 50% and increasing case resolution time, it still faces systemic challenges that prevent it from delivering timely and fair justice to all citizens. Citizens often feel trapped and desperate due to prolonged court proceedings in family, property and business cases–and sometimes potentially endangered as they await restraining orders or other actions from judicial institutions. Additionally, inconsistent rulings on legal issues in business, administrative, civil, and criminal cases increase legal uncertainty for plaintiffs, defendants, family members, judges, lawyers and businesses. Businesses, lawyers, and citizens often complain of inconsistent applications of the law creating an unpredictable legal environment. These deficiencies stall economic growth, prevent victims from accessing timely justice and obtaining protection, and allow impunity to continue unchecked. Kosovo’s citizens, lawyers, judges, and other legal personnel need access to information on how the legal actions they are taking (or considering) are or may progress through the legal system, and how and when hearings, rulings, and other actions will occur so they can make informed choices about what and how many cases to take, what legal recourse to pursue, whether they should look for alternatives, when and how to escalate miscarriages of justice and oversight, and how to use the existing data in the face of persistent underperformance and inequity, to advocate for reform.
Millennium Foundation Kosovo calls on open data movers, shakers and opinion-makers, start-ups, civil society, the private sector, academia, journalists, designers, technology innovators, and creative problem solvers to submit proposals that use open data to support Kosovo’s citizens and legal professionals in making empowered, informed choices about the status of their current or future cases in the legal system and to use data to advocate for increased efficiency, transparency, and equity in the judicial system.
MFK intends to make up to four awards to innovations that fall into one of three categories:
- Innovation: Innovations that propose new, creative, data-driven ways of empowering citizens and/or legal professionals to understand, access and utilize Kosovo’s legal system, make appropriate choices, and get connected to appropriate service providers. Innovations may help judges, lawyers, academics and CSOs access and utilize judicial data and decisions to improve understanding around the nature of judicial proceedings (type of case or charges filed, case duration, decisions and sentences), empowering citizens to make informed choices about their legal recourse, including whether continuing the case through the judicial system or exploring alternatives (such as mediation, arbitration or court settlement, accepting a plea agreement, or dropping the case) is a better decision for their clients, themselves and/or their families, seeking help in situations that are urgent, stressful, corrupt, or dangerous (such as domestic violence, bankruptcy, criminal conspiracies, or abuse), supporting judicial personnel in consistently applying the law, and/or inspire academic research.
- Court Performance: Data-driven analytical innovations that help citizens better understand the functioning of the judiciary, the effectiveness and efficiency of courts, and tools to analyze and support allocating resources to meet institutional needs. Innovations should improve users’ knowledge, understanding and expectations resulting with respect to legal proceedings.
- Advocacy: Innovations that analyze court performance, budgets, and decisions and connect Kosovo’s citizens involved in current, future, or past judicial proceedings to appropriate organizations and opportunities for advocacy to address data-driven needs and gaps in court performance, transparency, resourcing, impunity, public trust, civil rights, and public safety, especially for women and underrepresented groups.
Competitors may opt to enter multiple categories or tackle multiple topics, but it is better to focus and address one or two of themes well than to try to generally address all of the topics. While MFK intends to make at least one award per category, it reserves the right to make multiple awards in one category depending on proposal quality.