The SMS judicialÂ information system provides an outstanding service for the citizens and lawyers which enables them to receive SMS messages containing legal information such as ongoing cases, dates of court hearings, the last change in the case andÂ suits or dept claims against them. Therefore, they can be instantly informed by SMS about any kind of legal event related to them without going to courts. IT Department of Ministry of Justice of Turkey carry out the SMS information system which aims an exceptional service for lawyers and citizens that they can subscribe and it means that notifications are sent out more effectively than by post.Â Previously this was done via post and often meant that the lawyers and citizens went directly to the court to obtain information. A cooperation agreement has been signed with the Turkish GSM operators in order to establish this system that makes it possible to send SMS to the mobile phones. This system aims to automatically inform all related parties of cases when any legal event, data or announcement (which has to be sent parties) realized by the judicial units such as courts, public prosecutor offices and enforcement offices. Sending a SMS does not replace official notification as it provides information to the parties so that they can take necessary measures in time without delay in order to prevent deprivation of legal rights. SMS information system has reduced the communication costs which would otherwise be incurred in a paper-based system. Lawyers and citizens can access every kind of legal information by using their mobile phones anytime anywhere enabling utmost transparency in the judiciary. SMS information system, which make it possible for citizens and lawyers to track the changes in their cases via their mobile phones, pave the way for 7 million TL savings per year from postal expenses all over the Turkey. The most important lesson to be learned from SMS information system is how effecitive use of mobile technologies reduced the administrative and communication costs, enhance the effectiveness of justice and augments the transparency.
Turkish Constitution states that judicial tasks should be maintained in a swift and economic manner. In addition to this, better and easy access to the justice is included as fundamental priorities in the Accession Partnership of the EU and in the National Plan of government which was adopted on 8 March 2001. Turkish government is actively following these programmes in the course of progress towards accession to the European Union and in response to the obligations of the acquis of the EU. SMS information system is one of the very good components of outstanding e-justice system which is now considered as an indispensable part of the eGovernment programmes, policies and strategies of the EU. The job done by SMS information system totally complies with the E-Plus strategy of the EU which aims to establish a high level information society and remove the gap between the justice staff and the individuals seeking justice. Â SMS information system can be a good model for the European Union providing direct benefits to the governments, citizens and businesses of Europe. In the near future it would be possible to transfer this system to other EU member countries. Achieving this goal will result in swift informing of services for the people of the EU about the legal processes happening in different countries. Compared with cross-border delivery of information in conventional courts, access to information in the courts supported by mobile phones will be less costly, easier and more convenient for both parties.
SMS information system provides easy access to legal information to the citizens, lawyers and all legal professions. In Turkish Judiciary all legal procedures are accomplished in electronic environment enabling it possible to send information to the citizens by SMS on demand. Lawyers and citizens can access to Â all their files, examine their case information and learn the day fixed for the trial without going to courts by using their mobile phones. Huge workload of staff due to answering enquires of citizens in courts has been decreased significantly. There are two types of SMS services. The first one is through basic query of the user for single use, and the second is subscription for prompt notification of every action. It is completely free to subscribe this system by sending SMS to 4060 containing citizen ID number and the phrase of â€œABONEâ€ (SUBSCRIBE). After being subscribed, in order to provide the continuity of the service and prevent unnecessary usage, citizens are charged with the only 7 SMS fare, which is less than a cost of public transportation to go courts.Â Lawyers can also determine some of the files of them and content which they want to be informed by using lawyer portal enabling them to follow only some stages of a specific case. The number of citizens using this system has reached 81.742 and nearly 500 citizens are being daily added in recent days. The number of lawyer benefiting is 1808. The total sent messages has amounted to 1006200 and daily sent SMS is nearly 1000. The number of daily SMS instead of legal summons sent by the courts or public prosecutors to the citizens is nearly 2000.
The courts or public prosecutors can also send SMS to the citizenâ€™s mobile phone instead of preparing and sending physical legal summons. By this way it has been saved from the expenses of postal costs, time and paper. When the citizen immediately applies to the courts after receiving a SMS which costs 0.047 TL there is no need to send official summon which costs 4 TL which could have been covered by parties.Â In most cases it proves to be more effective and quicker to send SMS to invite witnesses for giving evidence since they take it more serious when they receive this message. In addition, with this system judges and prosecutors can be informed and notified by SMS about how many days remain from their annual day off limit, the decision of appointments, assignations, placements and also any kind of development in their personal file.
The SMS information system has been developed in collaboration with GSM operators in Turkey and now entirely managed by the IT department of Ministry of Justice (MoJ) who have a team of judges and developers ensuring the continuity and future development of the system.Â The IT Department of the MOJ has the duties and responsibilities to establish, operate, and maintain the informatics systems in cooperation with the different agencies. In this Project it is realized the importance of the mobile devices which are being used to improve the communications between the judicial organisation and the general public for better and faster access to justice. Accordingly, the own team of IT Department has provided successfull coordination and cooperation with the GSM operators relating to the project by using the most updated technology and methodologies. The SMS information system complies fully with the E-Plus strategy of the EU which aims to establish a high level information society and remove the gap between the justice staff and the individuals seeking justice. So, it is completely possible to import these main component applications to other countries courts. In addition there has been set up some communication activities with some of the countries such as Bosnia to share this outstanding practice.
SMS information system was put into practice in 01.04.2008. National Judicial Informatics Systemâ€™s ( http://www.uyap.gov.tr/english/index.html) infrastructure is used for this system which is a nationwide central e-justice system providing fast, reliable, and paperless judicial system. Thanks to this system, as soon as judicial authorities make any legal action with their roles in National Judicial Informatics System, parties of the cases are automatically informed by a SMS. The nationwide obligation of using citizen unique ID number in every process is one of the features making it possible to implement this system. This is not a manual working system as it works automatically with specific software that prevents additional costs. This is a server based projectÂ Â set up on Oracle database in Java platform.
This system has transformed the vision of judicial organs from a conservative state demanding information from individuals to a modern state swiftly providing information to them so as to prevent unjust treatments and irregularities. It also increases the quality of legal services by reducing the usage of sources of budget and ensuring utmost availability of getting information, preventing red tape.
Â All of the objectives of the Project have been achieved as a result huge workload of staff due to answering enquires of citizens in courts has been decreased significantly. Citizens can reach every kind of information about their cases anytime and from anywhere which provides efficient judicial services. It prevents the loss of time and money, and enables better access to justice. Citizen and lawyers save from time, labour force and expenses which are needed to go courthouses for obtaining information about the processes of their files. It becomes very easy for lawyers and citizens to access their case information via mobile phones which provides a substantial save in working hours of the judicial staff.
The SMS information system provides a perfect legal protection and alarm system for citizens enabling them learning proceedings first hand. Citizens are given the possibility to check their cases without time and location restrictions ensuring full transparency in legal proceedings. It also accelerates the judicial processes. The system has decreased administrative and judicial burden so to enable workload practitioners to focus on their other priorities. It seems fairly clear that implementation of SMS information system has reduced the administrative and communications costs which would otherwise be done in a manual system. With this system, expenses of bureaucracy and postal costs are removed.Â After the system was put into practice which brings easiness to lawyers and citizens, it is not necessary to go to courthouses to get information about the phase of the case or to learn the date of the hearing and also they no longer have to pay travel costs to go to remote courts.
Â Hence use of this system makes the justice system more efficient and transparent, engendering greater public trust and confidence in the judiciary and respect for the rule of law. Once a file or a claim is initiated by electronic means or any change occurs in the files within UYAP system, it directly falls into citizenâ€™s and lawyerâ€™s mobile phone and after that point it is so difficult to be neglected. Delivery of information through the use of SMS will facilitate and accelerate the access to courts as required by the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
It also facilitates better access to justice for the disabled people, allowing them to learn about their cases without need to go to courts. In addition SMS information system has increased the awareness and the knowledge of the citizens making them strong in relations with their advocates and confident before courts. This may contribute to the quality of the judiciary. In addition, SMS information system works as a perfect alarming service, enabling citizen to take precautions without delay in case their ID is stolen, used and as a result they became a culprit.
As a conclusion; global warming is considered one of the biggest threats for the humans in recent decades. SMS service is known to be effective in reducing CO2 emissions by helping to minimize the movement of people and goods and the use of paper and other office supplies.
Turkish Project team joins all e-Justice Programme events and make some visits to share this good practice and exchange of experience with European and Mediterranean region. Turkish team have been also invited to some countries to share its invaluable experience throughout its neighbours. For instance, there has been initiated a cooperation with Bosnia and Herzegovina to transfer the knowledge of Turkey (http://www.adalet.gov.tr/english/news/2009/news0/news.html). Â In all these visits because of its capacity and capability SMS information system Â has been appreciated by the visitors. Â
Â In addition SMS information system will be integrated with the other e-government implementations of other state departments so that citizens can be informed instantly about all other public services. SMS information system will also be integrated with the security forcesâ€™ electronic system. When a wanted person come to the hospitals, pharmacies, airports and railway ports and make any transaction with their system, the nearest police station will be alarmed by SMS and show the location of person. In the appeal process of court decisions, the performance of judges are assessed by high court and given marks that is important for the promotion of them. These assessment marks will be sent to judgesâ€™ mobile phone by SMS. The relatives of the prisoners will be informed about the health conditions of them and the dates of visit or any kind of event related to them.Â Overseas operator connections will be established in order to promote this system in abroad. Criminal records and birth registration needed to take up a public employment will be sent to citizenâ€™s mobile phone. As it is completed integration works with the Turkish telecom, it will be sent to SMS to landline phones.The possibility of success in any kind of potential trial which will be calculated by specific software will be sent to the citizens when they request by SMS in order to prevent unnecessary proceedings
The most important lesson to be learned is how effecitive use of mobile technologies reduced the administrative and communication costs, enhance the effectiveness of justice and augments the transparency. The new technological developments in the world lead to new changes in the way of e-government, provide mobile services to citizens and businesses. It is widely believed that M-government is the next inevitable direction of e-government. The number of people geting access to information by mobile phones and mobile internet connection is increasing rapidly. The mobile Access to informationÂ - anywhere any time â€“ is becoming a daily routiene, and the governments will have to change their IT policies according to this demand .Â SMS information system enables integrated and flexible data communication and exchange mechanism between citizens and government units in the legal sector for better access to justice. The success of SMS information system in Turkey is a very good example of this evolution.Â SMS information systemÂ applications has become a key method for reaching citizens living in remote areas and promotingÂ exchange of communications. Â Ability of reaching people living in rural areas in which Turkey has many may be considered as an important feature of the system.