Dispute Resolution Ideabook

What would an SMS-based dispute resolution system look like?

Open Law Lab - Sanjouwa Hatowa

Sri Lankan tech researcher & TED fellow Sanjana Hattotuwa has laid out some of the basic capabilities that mobile phones in the field can be used in dispute resolution and rule of law.

Data gathering

  • Plotting the GIS coordinates of the disputed territory, including details of the location, resources and details of adjacent territory
  • Details of disputants, including audio and video testimonies, multimedia footage and documentation of case details
  • The in-field mediator or contact person can make his or her own notes and add them to the case file – through text, multiple answer questions via SMS, audio notes or video recordings
  • Rapid entry of key case details, which the mediator can then go back and expand

Real time ODR

  • System generated messages can be handed out to disputants to follow up with a voice message system that gives them the status of the case in the vernacular
  • Mediators can be informed of similar cases in real time using intelligent comparisons of data and disputes
  • GIS boundaries of land can be plotted and sent to regional centres which can print out the maps and hand them over to the disputants to visually aid the process of mediation
  • Case details can be semantically linked to provide mediators with expert systems that are able to generate options to help with decision making
  • F2F synchronous and asynchronous mediation using mobile video conferring technologies

Offline ODR

  • Indexed case histories can feed into knowledge repositories that can be accessed offline, in print or as audio files to help train and build mediation capacities of ADR mediators
  • Anecdotal input by mediators can be indexed to create expert system that examine semantic linkages within and between such input to influence options generation – for instance, the family history of a particular disputant, the structural underpinnings to a land dispute which may be linked to loss of face and other observations
  • Ability to access thematic or issue based case studies over a given period of time, or examine a particular case against possible options and the probability for resolution based on historical data, or access to case histories in a particular context, region or identity group (ethnic, religious or gender).
  • A central repository of information on past and on-going ADR and ODR processes, grouped by issue, region, ethnicity, mode of settlement, mediator etc

Settlement process

  • Disputants get vernacular SMS notification of settlement. Those who cannot read also get a voice mail with relevant details. Simple disputes can be resolved on the spot with expert systems that help in options generation for the dispute.
  • Video conferencing via mobile phones can aid where disputants are far removed from ADR centres. Mediated voice conferences can aid in settlement processes along with asynchronous video, wherein parties get to see and hear each other’s viewpoints.
  • Mobile systems can complement and strengthen traditional face-to-face (F2F) meetings but reducing the need for physical meetings, reserving F2F meetings for the most intractable disputes, facilitating virtual F2F meetings between active disputants and those that have successfully resolved similar disputes in the past in the same region or on the same issue, enable mediators themselves to interact with each other to discuss, transfer knowledge and share information between each other.