Surya Kannoth ( )
As more and more transactions and interactions take place online, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of disputes that arise. Despite the long-standing issues of delays and diversions in the country’s formal justice system, India’s pain points have prompted innovation, and technology has been a catalyst for leapfrogging solutions that go beyond automating traditional processes. One such technology is Online Dispute Resolution (ODR), which enables parties to resolve disputes through negotiation, mediation, and arbitration via an online platform, without having to visit a courtroom physically.
Over the last four years, India has become a global leader in ODR. The number of ODR startups and enterprises piloting ODR has grown significantly, with several Indian states conducting small causes courts using ODR platforms. Additionally, several prominent organisations, including the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), have adopted ODR. The NITI Aayog, India’s central government body for new initiatives, has also formulated a national policy for ODR, and over 2.5 crore disputes have been onboarded onto ODR systems.
The convergence of many powerful forces, including the challenges of the formal justice system, rapid digitisation, the COVID-induced collapse of in-person justice systems, and collective leadership from a robust stakeholder ecosystem, has led to India’s emergence as a global ODR leader. Despite its infancy, ODR is poised for disruption, thanks to the rapid improvements in AI technology.
How is ODR going to help?
Traditional dispute resolution methods are often slow, costly, and cumbersome. Litigation can take years to resolve and is often beyond the reach of many people due to its high costs. ODR offers an alternative solution that is faster, cheaper, and more accessible.
The impact of the recent advancement in artificial intelligence (AI) on ODR is significant. The expertise required for dispute resolution includes facilitation expertise to help parties approach the problem collaboratively, and legal expertise to identify relevant facts, legal issues, and laws.
The process involves a set of well-scripted steps, including case submission, statement of the case, fact-finding, and document collection. Communications encompass guiding disputants, assisting experts, facilitating dialogue, and helping disputants understand their situation. ODR systems have mainly relied on basic IT systems, such as submission forms, case management systems, and templates, which have significantly reduced time and costs.
However, with the current volumes of cases well-supported by dispute resolution professionals, it’s AI-powered systems that will take us to resolving hundreds of crores of disputes and saving 99% in time and money. The increase in people entering the formal economy and conducting transactions digitally will create billions more transactions and friction points that require immediate resolution. The existing framework of ODR thinking, which has been successful in reducing resolution cost and time in finance disputes, must adapt to this new paradigm shift to address friction points in seconds and tens of rupees. Therefore, AI-powered ODR will become a necessity rather than a luxury.
ODR can help streamline the dispute resolution process in the public sector. By adopting ODR, courts and tribunals can reduce their workload and focus on cases that require their attention. This will result in faster and more efficient justice delivery.
In addition, ODR can make justice more accessible to the common man. With its lower costs and ease of use, ODR can provide a platform for resolving disputes that was previously unavailable to many people.
In order to envision the new form of Online Dispute Resolution (ODR), we must consider that its uniqueness no longer lies solely in its online nature, but rather in the potential for significant automation. This automation would be what sets it apart and could even lead to renaming it as Automated Dispute Resolution (AuDR).
There are various ways in which artificial intelligence (AI) could be incorporated to enhance ODR:
- AI-powered language translation and conversational agents can improve literacy and assist those with grievances or disputes by increasing their awareness of the situation and aiding in resolution options and preparation.
- AI can assist in the dispute onboarding process by helping users accurately present their case, validating identities, categorising and pre-analysing cases, and placing disputes in the most beneficial process. Law firms have already implemented AI in research, identifying relevant case issues, and developing defense strategies.
- AI-based resolution can efficiently resolve disputes without human intervention in cases where the facts are clear and acceptable decision-making models exist.
- Even when human intervention is required, AI can minimise the need for it, especially in systems where users have little or no ability to pay, such as grievance redressal for government entitlements.
- AI can support resolution professionals, such as mediators, arbitrators, and case managers, by providing necessary data and insights to aid in their work.
- AI can create proper documentation for the case, including formal records for filings, mediation agreements, awards, and receipts, as well as other relevant documents.
- AI can assess the likelihood of success and the extent of recoverable damages, similar to the advanced content-segregation tools utilised by startups for automated contractual analyses.
What’s happening at AWS-OpenNyAI?
OpenNyAI is an open mission enabling everyone to contribute. The community is engaged in building datasets, models, educational materials, holding community spaces, and evangelising better design and ethics for AI for Justice solutions.
Recognising the potential of ODR in the public sector, OpenNyAI and AWS have partnered to launch the Plug-in Innovation Challenge to promote ODR and encourage innovation.
In association with the Bharat Innovator Series, powered by AWS and Intel, the Plug-in Innovation Challenge is a programme that encourages developers to build ODR plug-ins that can be integrated into existing platforms. The programme aims to make ODR more accessible by providing developers with the tools and resources they need to build effective ODR solutions.
AWS and Intel have been helping public service organisations like educational institutes, edtechs, non-profits, government institutions, and startups leverage technology to drive social impact.
Their recent initiative, the Bharat Innovator Series, aims to create a dialogue between founders, innovators, policymakers, and thought leaders on a common platform to discuss technology opportunities, identify challenges, and find synergies for the future. The series features webinars, podcasts, and events that highlight the work of Indian innovators across various fields.
Through the Plug-in Innovation Challenge and Bharat Innovator Series, AWS, Intel and OpenNyAI seek to inspire developers and innovators to build effective ODR solutions that can benefit the public sector and society at large.
The 12-week challenge will catalyse, identify and support a new generation of ODR tools that utilise cutting-edge AI, particularly large language models (LLMs), to create radically better experiences for users in and around informal and formal dispute resolution systems.