THE DUBAI JUS­TICE CEO WHO DOESN’T SWITCH OFF

AS AN EMI­RATI FE­MALE CEO, AND MOTHER OF THREE CHIL­DREN, DIFC COURTS’ AMNA AL OWAIS CAN’T WAIT FOR THE FU­TURE

CEO Middle East - - BUSINESS - BY SHAYAN SHAKEEL

Why should a court think about im­ple­ment­ing blockchain? Aside from smart con­tracts, en­force­ment of a de­ci­sion right now in­volves pass­ing a lot of pa­pers around. And send­ing doc­u­ments in­volves diplo­matic channels, lawyers go­ing to dif­fer­ent ju­ris­dic­tions, trans­la­tions... the whole process takes months and months. With Blockchain, after con­sen­sus from dif­fer­ent courts around the world, we can di­rectly in­te­grate our judge­ments as soon as en­force­ment ap­pli­ca­tions are re­ceived.

This might seem a lit­tle naïve but why would this not work over email?

You can, of course, but we need to be smarter about this. Email has is­sues such as au­tho­ri­sa­tion, au­then­ti­ca­tion, or un­re­ceived cor­re­spon­dence etc. We don’t have it ironed out right now, but with blockchain we’re en­vi­sion­ing that if there’s a judge­ment ready for en­force­ment in the US then the ap­pli­ca­tion process could be­gin au­to­mat­i­cally at the touch of a but­ton. And then in terms of the sup­ply chain, with smart con­tracts this would in­volve the right au­tho­ri­sa­tions for the courts in­volved as well as the abil­ity to re­verse per­mis­sions for an ap­pli­ca­tion in­stan­ta­neously if needed. It’s cer­tainly some­thing we’re work­ing to­ward in the fu­ture and re­quires a lot of work on smart con­tracts, but we’re tak­ing it one step at a time. We’re cur­rently work­ing to­ward the en­force­ment over the blockchain and how we deal with courts around the world.

So you al­ready have a re­la­tion­ship with those courts and now you’re try­ing to con­vince them on your vi­sion?

Yes, the vi­sion is that the end prod­uct needs to be one where we utilise the blockchain for en­force­ment and for smart con­tract dis­pute res­o­lu­tion.

This needs to be done one step at a time in terms of ini­tia­tives in­volv­ing con­sen­sus with the courts, gov­ern­ments and the pri­vate sec­tor. We don’t have a spe­cific dead­line for when to achieve smart con­tracts yet, but in terms of blockchain for en­force­ment we’ll have the doc­u­men­ta­tion by Septem­ber and look to im­ple­ment it by 2020.

The UAE gov­ern­ment and au­thor­i­ties such as yours are some of the big­gest pi­o­neers of this new era of tech­nol­ogy. Where is the drive com­ing from?

It comes from His High­ness Sheikh Mo­hammed [Vice Pres­i­dent and Prime Min­is­ter of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai] that we need to look into the fu­ture and make it a re­al­ity right now. If you re­mem­ber, it be­gan with sim­ply the smart­phone, then smart ser­vices and the smart gov­ern­ment and now we’re tack­ling blockchain. One of the strate­gies is a blockchain-based gov­ern­ment by 2020. To be part of the am­bi­tion we need to be part of the vi­sion. We can’t have it that all of Dubai adopts the blockchain and we’re left be­hind. So we have to be pi­o­neers. Of course it helps that we’re a new youth­ful court – only over a decade old.

With all this dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion, is it a hard sell to get peo­ple on­board with the idea? Some peo­ple might be hes­i­tant to in­volve a court where they can’t present them­selves?

Peo­ple change. Our gen­er­a­tion, and fu­ture ones, are all think­ing about how tech­nol­ogy needs to serve peo­ple wher­ever they are. We’re us­ing tech­nol­ogy as an en­abler rather than a re­place­ment. And it al­ways helps in pro­vid­ing bet­ter ser­vices. How­ever, if peo­ple pre­fer tra­di­tional ser­vices and to come to the Court for face-to-face ser­vices then they are more than wel­come to as well. We of­fer both op­tions.

We are of course try­ing to pro­mote these new ideas as much as pos­si­ble. For in­stance we have a plan to go paperless by 2021. So for stan­dard cases ev­ery­thing is filed elec­tron­i­cally al­ready. Now we’re mov­ing to­ward e-bundling, for the ac­tual hear­ing, where we are mo­ti­vat­ing par­ties to use the e-sys­tem to file doc­u­ments in­stead of re­ly­ing on paper bun­dles.

On a more per­sonal note, you are a woman, an Emi­rati, and a CEO. What are your thoughts on that?

I’m a CEO. For us in the UAE, His High­ness Sheikh Zayed em­pow­ered us many years ago to study and be part of the work­place. I don’t think we nec­es­sar­ily need to con­tinue mak­ing that dis­tinc­tion [be­tween men and women] about how we are con­tribut­ing to the progress of our coun­try. Of course, be­ing a fe­male, an Emi­rati, and a CEO is a proud achieve­ment, but for me per­son­ally, I look at how I’m con­tribut­ing by be­ing com­mit­ted, mo­ti­vated and faith­ful to the pur­pose of my work more than any­thing.

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