Uwazi is an innovative software solution designed to help human rights organisations organise, analyse and publish their documents, so that the information within them is more accessible and easier to analyse.
“Information and documentation are the only weapons of human rights NGOs – so we better make sure we’re damn good at it, and better than the others.”
– Hans Thoolen, HURIDOCS co-founder
What is Uwazi?
For most organisations, managing documents means placing them into folders and/or categories so that staff or volunteers can find them later. (Think: Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.)
What if organising documents could make their contents come alive? Uwazi goes beyond tags and filenames to organise documents. Each document tells a story: an email that asks for a favor from a politician, a testimony from a witness of police violence, the ruling of a court on a human rights case. When these stories are connected, the bigger picture of patterns and systems becomes clearer: ongoing corruption, systematic police violence, legal human rights precedence.
Uwazi is built to do exactly this – highlight and organise the important information in each document, and create relationships between documents. Uwazi illuminates the bigger picture that human rights document collections uncover.
Who is it for?
Uwazi was designed to address the unmet needs of human rights organisations. Human rights institutions (e.g. national human rights commissions), universities, journalists, courts, and others who work with large document collections can also benefit from Uwazi’s features like customisable filters and easy-to-use interface.
What problems does Uwazi solve?
Most document management systems organise contents based on a document’s metadata (such as author, department, person, event, or year). But for human rights organisations, a document is often much more than these basic descriptors assigned to it – the content within the document also provides important insight. Uwazi addresses these problems by putting content and connections at the heart of the platform. Within each document there is important information to highlight, tag, organise, reference, and connect to other documents. In Uwazi, one paragraph referencing a military commander responsible for a human rights violation can be connected to another paragraph in another document that provides more biographical information about this military commander.
At HURIDOCS, we believe that any secure technology being developed for human rights defenders need to be open source. There’s a lot to consider related to security when building tools for human rights defenders: anonymity, privacy, sustainability, accessibility, consent, etc. This requires insight from many kinds of people – from human rights defenders to developers to security experts. Open source development does not guarantee security, but we strongly believe that in order to address any of these security issues, the technology must be free and open source.
In February of 2019, we worked with the Open Tech Foundation to carry out a security audit of Uwazi. This audit was performed by Subgraph and focused on:
- testing of the Uwazi application deployed natively and in Docker, and
- auditing the code, with a focus on issues such as input validation vulnerabilities, file upload safety, authentication, and access control.
Hosting Uwazi with HURIDOCS
Our Uwazi hosting services include:
- Reliable data centers located in the European Union.
- Data hosted in dedicated secured server. This includes: data encryption, monitoring, firewalls, intrusion detection systems, server antivirus, and ongoing configuration hardening.
- Daily backups of database and files on encrypted storage facility (retention policy: daily backups kept for one week, weekly backups kept for one month, monthly backups kept for three months).
- Daily scanning of access logs and alerts to clients in case of suspicious incidents such as multiple failed logins.
- Automatic installation of Uwazi upgrades with new features and security patches.
- SSL encryption of all communications with the server (https).
The History of Uwazi
In 2010, HURIDOCS partnered with Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) to develop the African Case Law Analyser . This website greatly improves access to human rights case law of African human rights regional bodies. The African Case Law Analyser addressed an enormous problem that we see in many regions – that access to human rights jurisprudence is almost impossible to obtain, hindering the work of human rights defenders. After building two Case Law Analysers, one for Africa and one for the Americas, HURIDOCS decided to invest in building an open source platform to allow any human rights project to organise and publish its own document collections.
Through consultations with human rights organisations, we learned that document collections are not helpful unless they can be connected to a bigger narrative: case documents need to be connected to judgement documents, judgement documents needs to be connected to judges, and so on. All of this information needs to be organised, in order to be understood. HURIDOCS built Uwazi to address these needs. We continue to develop new features in response to feedback from our users.