2010: Our inspiration

In 2010, HURIDOCS partnered with Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) to develop The Case Law Analyser (CLA). This platform opens up access to human rights case law coming out of all African regional bodies. The CLA addressed an enormous problem that we see in many regions – that access to human rights jurisprudence in Africa is almost impossible to obtain, hindering the work of human rights defenders. This platform became our inspiration for Uwazi.

2011: Securing support for our vision

We wanted Uwazi to address the document publishing needs of human rights organizations so that they could publish and organize large document collections. As we started to imagine what Uwazi could become, we knew that we needed a community of users, developers, and funders to make it successful. Deciding to develop this tool as open source was the most important step we could take to ensure that Uwazi would be user-driven, community-owned, and high quality.

We secured support from the MacArthur Foundation and we started to plan our next steps.

2015: Building a community

The inception workshop: identifying the need

Before starting development, we set out to find out what potential users would find most valuable. At an event in September 2015 (co-sponsored by PILnet and KPTJ) in Nairobi, we invited 21 organizations to learn about their work and goals. We wanted to learn what kinds of documents they want to share, what format those documents are in, what they’re already sharing, and how they’re sharing it.

What we learned

We learned that there was no easy way to publish large document collections. Organizations are working with various document types, formats, and platforms. Most of their documents are not helpful if they can’t be connected to a bigger narrative – case documents need to be connected to judgement documents, judgement documents needs to be connected to judges. All of this information needs to be organized in order to be understood.

The feedback we collected for this inception meeting laid the groundwork for Uwazi’ features.

2016: Our first pre-release

We launched the first pre-release of Uwazi in July 2016 with the following functionality:

  • Easy upload: Simple, familiar drag-and-drop document upload feature that automatically converts the text from PDF to HTML.
  • Metadata: Users can define their own metadata for each document that includes properties, categories, locations, and connections.
  • Published documents are accessible on any browser and any device.
  • Full text search the contents of your documents.
  • Filter: Based on metadata, find interesting subsets of information by combining filters.
  • Table of contents: Select relevant points in the text and click to add them to the table of contents.
  • Ability to cross-reference content (full documents or text within a document) by identifying the source and target of the reference.

Since July 2016, in addition to many improvements to the platform, we have added the following features:

  • API: We made it easier for users to interact with their data on platforms outside of Uwazi, by building an application program interface (API).
  • Faceted browsing: Users can explore a collection of information by applying multiple filters at once.
  • Translation: The entire platform interface (menus, buttons, fields, etc) can now be translated into most languages right from the administrator interface.
  • “What you see is what you get” (WYSIWYG) pages: User are able to create webpages that can be used to share information related to the organization profile, the collection contents, legal disclaimers etc.

Our pilot partners

We continue to work with a number of organizations from the inception meeting in order to support their document publishing efforts, and to learn from their experience using Uwazi. We’re grateful for their partnership!