Access and accessibility are significant foundational principles of justice. To assist in their delivery in 2023 and beyond, video conferencing and computer systems are being used more extensively than ever by the Courts Administration Authority (CAA) across all courtrooms in South Australia (SA). 

The CAA telecommunications network connecting metropolitan and country sites was first implemented in the last century – and a lot has changed in that time. Since then, the utilisation of courtroom video conferencing has grown rapidly to the point where many cases cannot proceed without it. Current demand has exceeded the network’s capacity which sometimes leads to disruptions and delays of trials, which in turn has implications for the provision of timely justice.

A modern, reliable network is also vital to support ECMS (the new Electronic Courts Management System). As this system delivers increased functionality, it requires more bandwidth delivered to each courtroom across the state, every minute the court is sitting. 

To address these requirements the CAA’s IT branch embarked upon a project to implement contemporary telecommunications technology to provide a higher level of service, at faster speeds with a lower recurring cost.

Futureproofing telecommunications to South Australia courts

The success of this project was achieved by working in partnership with Datacom, NBN Co, Fortinet and the Department of Premier & Cabinet to design and implement Fortinet SD-WAN technology (Software Defined – Wide Area Networking) interconnecting all 17 CAA sites with the central computing facilities in Adelaide CBD.

Six months has now passed since all the sites became operational with no outages experienced for the new network. Latency is now measuring 3 milliseconds down from its previous 30 milliseconds which for users (and non-technical lay people) simply means there is no frustrating lag; that is there are no ‘dropouts’ when the court uses video conferencing. The courtroom experience is now as if the computer was next door. 

The benefits extend well beyond video conferencing with administrative staff also experiencing improvements. For example, the response times from the work tools and applications staff use every day is much faster, especially for Microsoft Outlook 365. 

Real-time fault issue resolution now occurs in real time as the new system allows the CAA Courtroom Technology team “granular network visibility” to resolve issues as well as managing the quality of service. For example, if the courts are experiencing issues with video conferencing quality, the technicians can adjust the network allocation of video, voice and data to provide more bandwidth for optimum results. We now have the level of access and control which we never had previously.

What’s next for the network?

Accidents do occur, often caused by the ‘in ground’ fibre being cut by construction works. To minimise any downtime for the metropolitan courts in such a situation, the CAA IT team is working with Datacom to configure the onsite equipment to ‘fail over’ to wireless technology using the mobile telephone data network.

As well as providing critical connectivity right now, the SD-WAN technology means that the capacity of the system can be increased in the future, without any changes to the underlying technology.

The foundation for this successful project was a high-trust relationship between CAA and all the partners who formed a team of skilled, dedicated people working towards common goal. 

This project has also delivered the first SD-WAN project for the South Australian Government and will form a template for other Departments that require similar solutions.

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