Relativity’s recent data centre launch of RelativityOne in South Africa celebrates a significant milestone in the country's e-discovery landscape.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Antonio Pooe, director of Deloitte's Forensic and Dispute Services practice, and Kimlynne Olivier, associate director at Control Risks, to discuss the impact of this launch on the local legal and business communities and to learn about the unique challenges and opportunities facing the region.
David Giambalvo: What makes the practice of e-discovery unique in South Africa compared to other parts of the world?
Antonio Pooe: The use of e-discovery tools in legal processes is still in its infancy in South Africa, despite the increasing adoption of these tools in other parts of the world. The legal framework in the country does not currently provide for e-discovery to the same extent as the US or other jurisdictions, which presents a unique challenge for local practitioners.
Kimlynne Olivier: For years now, we have silently watched companies in Europe and the US lead in the adoption and formalisation of e-discovery processes and procedures. Section 35 of the Uniform Rules pertaining to the High Court, and Rule 23 of the Magistrates Courts, govern our local discovery requirements. There has been a push to formalise this process. It seems that the increase in data, and the size of the cases currently presenting in our courts, is overtaking this process and potentially becoming the driving force behind the industry changes and growth—not to mention the technology investment—in South Africa.
What is unique about the legal and business communities in South Africa?
Kimlynne: e-Discovery is still seen as a recent development within the Africa market. However, with the adoption of technology occurring throughout Africa, we find that the need for technology solutions—and the desire to embrace the abilities that these disruptive solutions bring—are important for growth and investment.
Antonio: The proliferation of big data and cloud enterprise solutions has awakened both the legal and business communities in South Africa. The COVID-19 pandemic has also accelerated the adoption of legal tech by local courts and practitioners. Deloitte sees this as an opportunity to lead the adoption of cutting-edge solutions, including RelativityOne.
What does this launch mean for developing the maturity of e-discovery in the cloud for South Africa?
Antonio: Having a local instance of RelativityOne addresses several legal and regulatory concerns for the South African market. In particular, the private sector's growing interest in data residency and secrecy laws has spurred interest in legal tech that enables full compliance. Deloitte sees the launch of RelativityOne as a significant step towards enhancing the maturity of e-discovery in the country.
Kimlynne: The launch of RelativityOne in South Africa will help us to serve clients better through cutting-edge technology that helps them manage the review of today's huge data volumes. It also makes this technology accessible to all and not just the big international law firms or business communities in South Africa.
In what ways will having a SaaS data centre in-country benefit your clients?
Kimlynne: Since 2017, Control Risks South Africa has had on-premise Relativity with client data hosted in country. Having a SaaS data centre in-country gives us and our clients the opportunity to have their reviews hosted and reviewed in South Africa. Many of our clients have justifiable concerns about jurisdiction and data sovereignty. We are now incredibly happy to have local data centres. The data does not have to leave South Africa at all.
Antonio: Having a local data centre for RelativityOne means that Deloitte's clients can now take advantage of cloud-based e-discovery solutions while maintaining compliance with local data residency laws. This eliminates the need to transfer data outside of the country, which can be a costly and time-consuming process.
What types of work do you expect to take on for clients in-country?
Antonio: Deloitte expects to continue supporting clients with dispute services while also enhancing proactive and compliance solutions.
Kimlynne: We’re brimming with excitement to offer world-class technology that supports data collection, processing, hosting, and review within our own jurisdiction. We are seeing an increase in PII (personal identifiable information) investigations and reviews as well as DSAR (Data Subject Access Requests) investigations. We’re also extremely excited about bringing Collect in RelativityOne to our clients. Collect pulls data straight from the most popular enterprise platforms. This ensures a seamless process—again focussing on being time and cost conscious and enhancing efficiency.
How does expanding your SaaS footprint into South Africa benefit your global firm in cross-border matters?
Kimlynne: Delivering forensics and e-discovery services in support of cross-border disputes and multi-jurisdictional regulatory investigations is the norm, not the exception, for Control Risks. When combining Control Risks’s existing on-premises data centre across the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia Pacific with RelativityOne deployments, Control Risks will be better able to assist counsel and clients in complying with the complexities of data localization, transfer, and protection laws around the globe.
Antonio: Deloitte's global teams are highly collaborative in nature. The launch of RelativityOne in South Africa provides a strategic tool for enhancing the firm's participation in cross-border matters.
How will the new data centre contribute to the future of e-discovery in South Africa?
Antonio: I hope to see speedy and widespread adoption of RelativityOne and other legal tech solutions in South Africa. Increased adoption of these tools will encourage the legislature to do its part in developing a more robust legal framework for e-discovery in the country.
Kimlynne: The legal and business communities in South Africa are embracing technology and artificial intelligence to heighten efficiency. Many would agree that the most expensive part of e-discovery is, without a doubt, the human review aspect. With RelativityOne, we can cut down those costs by prioritising the reviews and ensuring that the reviewers are more efficient.
What advice would you give to South African businesses interested in improving their e-discovery processes or utilizing RelativityOne?
Antonio: Legal tech is relevant to any organization that electronically stores information. I routinely advise businesses to explore the processes and technology available, such as RelativityOne, to drive efficiency and enhance the pursuit of justice.
Our teams recently hosted community events in Johannesburg to celebrate the new data centre launch. What topics were top of mind among clients during those events?
Kimlynne: One question which was a common theme was the resilience with loadshedding. As was pointed out by Control Risks South Africa Partner Wayne Malgas, there has been quite a bit of talk in South Africa about the chances of a national grid failure—and insurance companies have insulated themselves against this risk by informing clients that there will not be coverage should this happen. Power is on every company’s business continuity plan. We are confident that the RelativityOne data centres have redundant power supplies and onsite backup generators and fuel to help ensure services are maintained during power outages. Microsoft uses both battery backup and generator backup to ensure data centres can meet the company's standards for service levels and operational reliability. In the event of a significant power outage, these generators are rated to run indefinitely and maintain sufficient onsite fuel storage to operate for days before refuelling, while complying with all government regulations in countries we operate data centre regions. Each data centre has a management team that works out contracts with local power suppliers, and part of that is understanding power requirements like loadshedding.
What are the most important lessons or insights you gained from our launch events?
Antonio: Based on my conversations with fellow delegates during the launch, I can confidently say that the possibilities of legal tech in the business realm are limitless. This observation highlights the potential for further innovation and development in the e-discovery landscape not only in South Africa, but also beyond.
Looking Toward an Exciting Future
The opening of the RelativityOne data centre in South Africa marks a significant and exciting milestone for local legal professionals and the global Relativity community. Our teams are poised to enhance the future of e-discovery in the region by offering a local instance of the cloud-based solution to address key legal and regulatory concerns, while also facilitating cross-border collaboration and support. As the legal and business communities in South Africa continue to embrace cloud technology, we can expect to see further growth and innovation in this area, and we’re thrilled to see RelativityOne at the forefront of this trend.
Legal tech is becoming increasingly important for any organization that electronically stores information, and the processes and technology offered by RelativityOne are helping practitioners around the world drive efficiencies and continue their pursuit of justice.