Our technology-intensive environment provides us with opportunities for innovation. At the same time, as the pace of change accelerates, more problems and disputes arise. Quite rightly, it has been written, “conflict is a growth industry.”
Technology, in the form of Online Dispute Resolution (ODR), can also make conflict resolution and prevention a “growth industry.” Last year, eBay alone resolved over 60 million disputes and Alibaba more than 100 million. There are ambitious plans for an online small claims court in the United Kingdom and ODR projects are operating in the Netherlands, Canada, China, and elsewhere. The United States, unfortunately, is behind other countries in developing online courts and easy online access to justice systems.
Can access to justice occur at the click of a mouse? Can we ask Siri, Google, or Alexa, to “Please settle my dispute with so and so?” Soon enough, an electronic device will replace the courtroom door as the entry point to formal and informal online dispute resolution processes. As this virtual door opens, how can we make sure that it is always open and inviting, meets the needs of the public and is much more accessible than our current justice systems?