One of the most significant shortcomings in the delivery of justice is the delay that is encountered by court users which increases the cost of litigation in both time and money, and results in prolonged criminal trials and overcrowded prisons.

The lack of a reliable central case recording system in the judiciary of Sierra Leone means that cases are in effect impossible to trace without considerable resources, effort and a lot of luck. This has also resulted in a number of systemic problems plaguing the judiciary and criminal justice system of the country, chief among them being the following

  1. Court orders or judgments often take too long to be decided, and are often drawn incorrectly

  2. There is an absence of proper administrative support for the judiciary

  3. There is a lack of proper and consistent continuity in case management in the judiciary

  4. Communication and coordination between courts, court staff and judges is often very poor


iDT Labs was contracted by UNDP Sierra Leone to develop a mobile-based Case Management System (CMS) for the Sierra Leone judiciary.

Our proposed architecture framework for the digitised CMS comprised of an Amazon S3 database hosted in the cloud, along with the following interfaces accessible from behind an API gateway:

  • A document conversion service for converting physical documents into electronic records on the system

  • An ElasticSearch service for running search queries on the data in the case management system

  • A web interface for carrying out administrative tasks on the cloud storage

  • A mobile interface accessed via an Android application.

These interfaces and services would allow for the seamless integration of different workflows that the judiciary requires from the CMS, such as accessing information from historical records, checking status of current bail applications, updating case records to reflect changing status of individual cases and calendaring.


Our solution was designed and developed to address the following considerations:

  1. Designing the system architecture in line with industry standards followed by judicial case management systems in other countries

  2. Understanding the security concerns of hosting sensitive data on the cloud, thereby ensuring military grade data encryption standards

  3. Incorporating human-centered design methodology in designing the interface of the Android application to ensure that the application is easy to use

  4. Ensuring that the system is capable of being used by people with low computer literacy

  5. Keeping in mind the poor internet connectivity issues that are prevalent in Sierra Leone

  6. Enabling easy search-ability of information from the system for all concerned stakeholders

  7. Supporting the current workflows followed in the judiciary


Court Case Management Systems have an impressive history of failure. This is evidenced by the well documented failure of California’s recent state-wide effort to implement a CMS. The California State Auditor re- ported in 2010 that, having already spent over $400 million on developing a CMS application, the anticipated project budget had grown from $33 million to an expected $1.9 billion, stretching over an estimated 12 years to deploy the system state-wide.

The challenges faced by technologically advanced governments give some insights into the potential risks and hazards of automating systems in a developing country, like Sierra Leone, where many of the court staff have never even worked professionally with computers or mobile apps. If the state of California cannot accomplish this, a developing country with limited resources and unstable funding needs to look more deeply into how to ensure that the system’s implementation is successful.

Properly identifying and managing the biggest risks that this project faces was critical to ensuring that the implementation of the project was successful. Some of the risks and constraints are as follows:

Low Computer Literacy

Computer literacy rates was low amongst the end-users and though delivering the service via an easy-to-use and intuitive Android application helped, this still posed a major risk to the adoption of the CMS. To overcome this problem, we ran intensive trainings and created training manuals and guides for constant reference.

Poor Network Infrastructure

By not relying on traditional network infrastructure, we decreased the risk posed by the low quality internet environment prevalent in Sierra Leone. However, although they are better than the traditional internet networks in the country, 3G networks are prone to instability with poor or no coverage in certain areas.


An automated case management system could have been perceived by some end-users as holding them more accountable over their actions, which might have caused them to become apprehensive to the system. To address this, we explained to everyone how a general increase in accountability throughout the system would help rather than making people more prone to being punished for their work.

Lack of Incentive

It was critical to ensure that the end-users understood the benefits and advantages that the CMS bought to their workflows. If this was not done, it was likely that they would not see any real benefits in using the CMS, leading to low adoption rates.


All criminal cases are now processed using the app

Reports and status of all court cases are now easily accessible

Overall time to process cases reduced significantly