It’s I.T. crystal ball time again! Every year, I look at various articles and sources to see what trends are being predicted in information technology for the coming year and relate them to the courts.
Standing out for me once again is the Gartner Group’s “Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2022” report (Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2022 | Gartner). But before we dive into this set of predictions, let’s take a quick look back at what was predicted for 2021. Last year’s blog post about the 2021 technology predictions (Technology Trends for 2021 – Court Leader) highlighted nine trends in three broad areas:
- People-centricity – applications that focus on enhanced user experiences, including increased privacy;
- Location independence – infrastructure that leverages cloud-based computing, anywhere operations, and enhanced cybersecurity; and
- Resilient Delivery – expansion of automation to all work areas, robust use of artificial intelligence, and use of data to inform all levels of planning and decision-making.
These predictions were very accurate, in my opinion. If only by necessity, courts implemented IT systems that were people-focused, location-independent, and resilient. I noted a year ago how the ongoing COVID pandemic was accelerating the adoption of technology by the courts. This trend continued throughout 2021 – for example, courts widely introduced people-focused technologies that enabled virtual interactions by the public, judges, and court staff.[i]
So, what are the 2022 predictions, now that we have a year’s experience with the pandemic’s effects? Gartner has identified twelve IT trend areas, as shown by this graphic:
Not surprisingly, many of these trends are the same as last year’s list. The emphasis on people centricity, location independence, and resilient delivery continues to be at the center of where IT is headed. It is appropriate to thus focus on the new 2022 predicted trends: data fabric, distributed enterprise, autonomic systems, cloud-native platforms, and generative AI (I encourage you to read the full report for details on the other trends):
- “Data Fabric provides a flexible, resilient integration of data sources across platforms and business users, making data available everywhere it’s needed, regardless of where the data live. Data fabric can use analytics to learn and actively recommend where data should be used and changed.”
Historically, government-sector justice agencies (such as police, prosecution, courts, and corrections) have each had separate IT systems that do not “play well” with each other in the sharing of data. Some jurisdictions have developed “offender-based” or other data sharing structures, but the lack of such sharing greatly hampers full implementation of efficient data practices at each stage of the justice system. Of course, there are data privacy and other good reasons to not share data across platforms, but courts should try to enable “data fabric” concepts as much as they can.
- “Distributed enterprises reflect a digital-first, remote-first business model to improve employee experiences, digitalize consumer and partner touchpoints, and build out product experiences. Distributed enterprises better serve the needs of remote employees and consumers, who are fueling demand for virtual services and hybrid workplaces.”
This trend is absolutely applicable to the courts! As noted above, the pandemic has literally forced courts around the world to quickly implement IT solutions like remote video hearings and trials, digital consumer interactions (like e-filing), and virtual work environments that enable hybrid workplaces. These solutions will now become permanent as the underlying IT systems are made more robust and effective.
- “Autonomic systems are self-managed physical or software systems that learn from their environments and dynamically modify their own algorithms in real time to optimize their behavior in complex ecosystems. Autonomic systems create an agile set of technology capabilities that are able to support new requirements and situations, optimize performance and defend against attacks without human intervention.”
The world we live in already has many autonomic systems (a prime example would be social media platforms, whose algorithms learn from user behaviors), and Gartner is predicting that they will become even more common. Courts should be very careful to implement these capabilities since the introduction of artificial intelligence into court processes can easily introduce unwanted bias. On the other hand, autonomic cybersecurity systems sounds very promising to enable government sector IT systems to more readily adapt to new threats.
- “Cloud-native platforms are technologies that allow you to build new application architectures that are resilient, elastic and agile — enabling you to respond to rapid digital change. Cloud-native platforms improve on the traditional lift-and-shift approach to cloud, which fails to take advantage of the benefits of cloud and adds complexity to maintenance.”
Last year’s trends highlighted “distributed cloud” as a key trend, and now has been updated to “cloud-native platforms.” This reflects the next stage of the evolution of cloud-based storage from simply being a hardware solution to the full leveraging of cloud’s advantages into application systems themselves. Courts should take advantage of the enhanced capabilities of such systems, taking care to maintain robust data security and operational capabilities.
- “Generative AI learns about artifacts from data, and generates innovative new creations that are similar to the original but doesn’t repeat it. Generative AI has the potential to create new forms of creative content, such as video, and accelerate R&D cycles in fields ranging from medicine to product creation.”
This trend has perhaps the least impact on court IT systems. As with autonomic systems discussed above, use of artificial intelligence in court applications is fraught with danger. Here, AI is taken a step further to have it create new functionality. I do not think we are ready for such a future in the court setting.
The full range of possible 2022 IT trends continues to show how technology has become a central force for innovation in every facet of our lives. The courts are no exception. Every court administrator should stay abreast of the rapid changes and future capabilities of IT to proactively improve court operations. However, we must be careful to evaluate and only adopt technological innovations when they support and enhance the primary purposes of administering justice. Stephen Hawking once said, “Our future is a race between the growing power of technology and the wisdom with which we use it.” Let’s be sure to keep this in mind as we go forward in the coming year. Researching and writing this post has certainly helped me stay abreast of IT trends, and I hope it does the same for you, too.
[i] An excellent article about how courts adapted in 2021: How Courts Embraced Technology, Met the Pandemic Challenge, and Revolutionized Their Operations | The Pew Charitable Trusts (pewtrusts.org)