COVID-19 brought numerous changes to the world of government and technology while ushering in an urgency to embrace technology in every aspect of operations. Our justice system was one of the most critically affected segments of our government. One of the most resistant to technological change, the justice system was thrust into a rapid scramble to adapt to this “new normal.” County, state, and federal courts were immediately challenged to find a solution to continuing court proceedings in the digital world. Governments and courts discovered new and innovative ways to provide secure and reliable service to their citizens. They embraced technology and software, leaning heavily on infrastructure and hardening their security. In doing so, citizens were offered inclusive and flexible services with a sustainable and fiscally responsible approach.
As governments continuously adopt new and emerging technology to better serve their citizens, they experience increased engagement and communication with their community. No longer are they asking their citizens to take time off work or find transportation. Residents don’t need to find childcare just to access the most basic of services in the government and judicial systems. Shifting to a more inclusive environment, governments are seeing the benefits of providing services in ways that were previously never considered or widely adopted.
The courtroom and the Judicial system on the local and state levels have remained mostly unchanged. Small incremental changes were seen throughout the years, with video endpoints being adopted. Currently, we’re witnessing a drastic shift in how technology is used in courtrooms and correctional facilities. The connection between courtrooms and correctional facilities has dramatically enhanced their efficiency and collaboration with Cisco technology, without sacrificing security or sustainability. The benefits and positive impacts of these changes were immediately seen. Expert witnesses from around the country could now appear digitally cost-effectively and efficiently. Hearings no longer required the substantial undertaking of transporting offenders housed in jails and prisons, which increased security and lowered the financial burden on the County and taxpayers. Security requirements for trials, hearings, and counseling were dramatically reduced.
Courtrooms were then challenged with keeping their courts open via the digital landscape by live streaming all hearings, trials, and proceedings, while at the same time maintaining the judicial process and privacy of those affected. Cisco’s technology allowed courts to easily meet these requirements and live stream the aforementioned proceedings via WebEx software and devices. Evidence was shown only to those who were required to view it, without displaying it for all to see publicly. Offenders no longer had to wait in the public’s view while shackled and wearing correctional uniforms. Victims were allowed to testify virtually from a secure location in the courthouse rather than reliving the pain and trauma of the incident in front of those they did not know. These are just a few examples of how technology is restoring some of the most basic human rights every person deserves.
Adapting to the times
This adoption of delivering easily consumable but also on-demand services provides a secure, sustainable, and reliable foundation to build on. Investing in an infrastructure that is not only secure but also flexible allows governments to quickly pivot to the emerging requirements that the pandemic brought. No one person could have predicted or prepared for such a devastating pandemic. Still, the ability to rapidly adapt to the challenges it brought and continue to serve the community and citizens in the ways they deserved is key. Don’t be mistaken, change will never be embraced with open arms. Humans are creatures of habit and comfort and rarely like to be pushed outside our comfort zone. Unfortunately, the pandemic did just that. It forced us to adapt and discover new ways to operate and provide even the most basic services. Information and collaboration became essential in the government, healthcare, educational, and public sectors. Faced with a seemingly unwinnable challenge, we responded with resilience and a determination to move forward. Once again, the question of what is possible was being asked by governments and organizations worldwide. Now that the pandemic is winding down, the drive and demand for services to be provided digitally are rapidly expanding. Since the internet became mainstream, we are experiencing the most significant catalyst for technological adoption in the state and local government space. The demand and consumption of digital services will only continue to increase in the government sector. Without a resilient infrastructure foundation to build, governments will fail to meet their citizens’ needs.
The adoption of technology made concepts and ideas a reality. Many of those concepts are based on functionality instead of profit. The goal was no longer set at getting back to how things were but rather to achieve a level of service that provided the foundation for how things should be. Providing services and support to the community became the resounding focus of state and local governments. The shift to a more inclusive government began with connected justice, but rapidly expanded to all sectors and offerings in the state and local government spaces.