In 1998 when I was a member of the Law Society of Kenya Council, we lobbied the Judiciary to digitise some aspects of their case management with little success. They only reluctantly agreed to upload the daily case list on the court’s website. The Judiciary has traditionally been averse to technology and while there have been some encouraging steps towards digitisation, archaic process still obtain. Judges still hand-record all proceedings and all hearings are in person. Until Corona.
In the last three weeks, many judges have been delivering their decisions digitally. Earlier this week, I participated in an online hearing at the High Court and the ruling was delivered digitally. The experience was surreal but it brought to my mind the positive ways the world has evolved in this otherwise dark, dreary season. Granted, we had to use the digital platform Zoom, which has been banned by many authorities due to security concerns, but importantly, it was a recognition by the Judiciary that other options to manage court proceedings exist that can result in a more efficient Judiciary.
I foresee the Judiciary inter alia
investing in custom made digital hearing applications for use, not just during crises, but generally; especially for applications where no witnesses are required. This would significantly save court’s time and resources and would improve efficiency. This is not the only arena where positive results have accrued from the otherwise bleak corona shutdowns. At a global level, climate and nature campaigners have been pleading with the world to go slow on carbon emissions and other environment harming activities. Many environmental activists, led by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, have rejected air travel, choosing the more cumbersome and slower sea trips, just to reduce the amount of carbon emitted into the air. Without being required under the Paris or other environment protocol, passenger travel has ceased for several weeks now. Many smog emitting industries are closed without changes in government policy on environmental protection.
This week international media reported that for the first time in 30 years, the Himalayas are visible from India. For the first time in a long time, people can see the sky from the world’s most polluted city, Delhi. Venice’s famous but filthy canals are an unbelievable sky blue while in New York, researchers have found 10 per cent drops in carbon dioxide and methane in March, along with a 50 per cent plunge in carbon monoxide. How sustainable this will be once the crisis is over, only time will tell. But without doubt, it will have left a lasting impression on humanity that a lot of our habits that injure nature are unnecessary. Many of the conference and work trips we engage in are replaceable with good a digital app.
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On the domestic front, while the internet is full of memes complaining about the tribulations of families in lockdown, many are starting to see value of relationships. Children who have not seen their fathers for years are appreciating his perennial presence. Spouses who couldn’t wait for the morning to leave their partners are finding ways to make living with each other at least bearable and finding that its actually enjoyable. Single people are forming real friendships, to give meaning to the lonely days. There is more natural exercise along the byways than one has ever seen. This can only be good for overall society.
One final positive impact of the virus is that we are collectively having to review the meaning and responsibilities of the government. Good leaders are becoming evident without political hues. Political affiliations are becoming irrelevant. This is a season for sincere conversations about how we can make local and national governments more attuned to the needs of their people, untainted by our ODMness, Tangatanganess or Kielewekeness. Without the cacophony of political noises we can ask what good leadership and good followership means and how to make post-Covid Kenya a kinder, safer and prosperous nation for all.
The writer is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya