Published on Eurasian Perspectives

One trip, two milestones: Seeing firsthand Azerbaijan’s efforts to modernize its judiciary

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Exterior of the newly-built Sumgayit Court Complex Exterior of the newly-built Sumgayit Court Complex

In May we made our first trip back to Azerbaijan since February 2020, and a little more than two years since Additional Financing for the Judicial Modernization and Smart Infrastructure Project was approved by the World Bank.

The team was eager to see progress made under the project, and we were not disappointed as we visited the Sumgayit Court Complex and the justice sector’s Main and Reserve Data Centers. What we saw included upgrades and reforms that offered:

Modern and smart front-line services: these are two adjectives that certainly come to mind when entering the Sumgayit Court Complex. Open and light-filled architecture houses state-of-the-art technology, paired with a modern courtroom experience.

Benefit for citizens and businesses: The digital transformation of judiciary functions over the past few years has enabled:

  • higher productivity – about three times the caseload can be processed compared to courts relying on paper records
  • improved efficiency – judges do not only handle more cases, but they also do it faster with time savings per case of approximately two months
  • increased transparency – court hearings are now recorded

And equipment and applications required for increased transparency enable remote appearances which was a ‘game-changer’ over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic as it allowed courts to continue functioning.

A court room at the Sumgayit Court Complex
A court room at the Sumgayit Court Complex

Standardization of e-Court applications, online availability of information and application forms, public transport modalities in immediate proximity to justice facilities, and inclusive architecture including ramps, features for the visually impaired and mother-child waiting areas have not only increased accessibility but also set standards nation-wide.

Benefits for judicial staff: The digital transformation of judiciary functions has brought together standardization of e-Court applications and court equipment, which is now centrally managed instead of local courts managing their own IT systems.

Training, IT resource management as well as change management have become highly efficient and, as staff move across courts on assignments, on-boarding has become a lighter endeavor as office setup and IT solutions are identical, no matter the location. Such court complexes also record savings of about 30 percent in terms of maintenance costs and 45 percent in terms of technical personnel.

Modern and smart back-office service: Even the non-tech, non-engineering members of our team got excited as we entered the Main Data Center and the Reserve Data Center. Advanced data center technology is housed in high-end construction in the Main Data Center in Baku, or in containerized solutions in the Reserve Data Center in Yevlakh. These are facilities where all information of the judicial system is stored and processed. Both were developed through a public-private partnership with AzInTelecom under the supervision of the Ministry of Digital Development and Transport and the Ministry of Justice.

Today, these joint efforts have proved worthwhile: Designed to Tier III International Standards—meaning the facilities require no shutdowns when equipment needs maintenance or replacement, translating into continuous availability and functioning of judicial services regardless of the back-office tasks—both Centers passed numerous stress-tests and critical inspections of the UpTime Institute, the leading international organization that certifies data center performance and availability per international standards. As of June 2022, the Data Centers are the first in Azerbaijan to be fully certified and are now among approximately 500 centers worldwide that meet Tier III requirements.

On the ground, the Centers represent a reliable, safe-to-fail environment, centrally managed and monitored on a 24/7 schedule. It is not only cutting-edge now, but it has also room for growth and expansion as there is sufficient additional capacity for increased digitalization of the justice sector in the medium-term, in which large volumes of data can be processed and stored.

At a policy level, the Centers represent the operationalization of the presidential decree on Government Data and Security and the effective organization of the formation, storage, maintenance and integration of state information systems and reserves in the justice sector by creating a centralized Government cloud (G-Cloud).

For the future, the Centers represent increased capacity and capability for smooth court and other justice service delivery as there is no shutdown during maintenance or replacement. Paired with digitization of court-related documents and audio-video court recordings, these facilities will translate into leveraging next-generation ICT tools such as artificial intelligence and business intelligence for improved access for citizens and businesses, better decision-making at the court as well as at the policy level, and the opportunity to apply and expand standards set by the justice sector and its Data Centers to other ministries and public entities. And that means a more transparent and effective judiciary that better serves Azerbaijan’s people and improves the country’s business climate and investment potential.


Eva Melis

Senior Governance Specialist

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