Safety. Protection. Connection. Verification. These are some of the biggest asks from human rights defenders, investigators and journalists who work in challenging environments to document evidence of human rights violations.
Human rights actors who work on the frontlines to expose human rights abuses and other crimes, often do so in high risk environments. Their devices may be confiscated, searched, wiped or destroyed. They may be working in areas with limited or no internet connectivity, which may result in the collection of incomplete evidence or even data loss. Their information may contain inaccurate or insufficient metadata, which can result in their evidence being inadmissible.
To make sure that those who seek accountability and justice can accurately document and protect information without fearing for physical or digital safety, the non-profit organisation Horizontal has developed the mobile app, Tella. The latest version of Tella has recently been released, and the great news is that HURIDOCS has teamed up with the good folks at Horizontal so that Tella now also connects to Uwazi!
By combining these two leading open source solutions for human rights investigations, mobile documentors can work safely and combine information from various sources to build cases that advance justice. Tella’s main focus is on the safety of human rights defenders and their data, while Uwazi offers a wide range of features for those managing human rights collections. This includes categorisation and linking of information to build dossiers, dynamic search functionality, collaboration within a team, powerful permissions, and the analysis of information through charts, graphs and maps. One of the main benefits of the integration with Tella is that Uwazi users can now work in offline mode, and only upload their data once they are able to connect to the internet.
What is Tella?
Tella is a free app that is available for Android devices and will be available for iOS soon. It can be used by anyone who engages in collecting information on injustices. Tella allows users to produce high-quality documentation that can be used for research, advocacy or transitional justice.
Safety is a fundamental concern and Tella enables those collecting information to do so without putting themselves in danger. Users can take photographs, record videos, record audio and import files inside Tella. The app, which is password protected and can be hidden on a device, automatically encrypts all files that are captured or imported. These are stored in a hidden gallery that is inaccessible from the device’s gallery. All other data contained in Tella is also inaccessible outside of the app. If verification mode is enabled, metadata such as device identification, geolocation and network information is stored in the files to ensure the verifiability of evidence.
Tella connects to organisational databases and enables users to submit information through existing forms and surveys. To transfer captured and imported information, Tella 2.0 now connects to three types of supported servers:
- Open Data Kit (ODK)
- Tella WEB
In addition to capturing, encrypting, storing, concealing and uploading data, Tella enables users to work offline, which is necessary for frontline human rights defenders operating in remote areas. Documentation and evidence collected in Tella can be submitted while offline and uploaded to the chosen server once the user has an internet connection.
Tella’s user interface is currently available in English, Spanish, Arabic and French and the app supports the following languages: Arabic, Belarusian, English, Spanish, French, Indonesian, Kannada, Malayalam, Burmese, Portuguese, Russian and Tamil.
How to use Tella with Uwazi
Have a look at our Tech Demo for RightsCon 2022, where we demonstrate the integration of the two human rights documentation tools: Tella and Uwazi.
Uwazi is HURIDOCS’ flagship documentation tool. It is a flexible web-based database application designed for human rights defenders to manage their collections of information, including documents, evidence, cases and complaints.
The integration of Uwazi with the Tella app offers a range of new features to both Tella and Uwazi users. “We are incredibly excited to partner with HURIDOCS to build an ecosystem of human rights documentation tools that integrate and complement each other” says Raphael Mimoun, the Programmes and Operations Lead at Horizontal. “With the Tella-Uwazi integration, we’re giving Tella users access to Uwazi’s powerful archiving and organising capabilities; and Uwazi users access to mobile data-collection.”
Organisations who already use Uwazi as a database tool, can connect Tella to one or more of their databases to upload data. All that is required to connect Tella to an Uwazi instance is the Uwazi database url, and the username and password. The Uwazi database should already have one or more templates configured, which can be downloaded into Tella. Once successfully downloaded, users can easily navigate between their templates to enter details for each new record, even when there is no internet connection. When the data entry is complete, it can be saved as a draft in the Tella app or immediately uploaded to the connected Uwazi database. This enables users who work offline to collect data, add it to the submission forms, save it and upload the information when it is convenient. In addition to the protection and encryption features, working in offline mode is a huge benefit for those who collect information in risky environments and areas with limited or no connectivity.
According to Salva Lacruz, Programme Manager at HURIDOCS, the combination of Tella and Uwazi provides a powerful tool for human rights defenders to collect data in challenging and risk contexts. “From now on, as Tella and Uwazi are able to connect, the capacity of Uwazi to structure information is ready to use in the field, and collected data is available in Uwazi in real time, ready to be analysed and published,” says Lacruz.
“We appreciate a tool like Tella because our colleagues who collect data for documentation face significant physical and digital risks due to the ongoing conflict in our country. They are often searched during their travels, which obliges them to hide any trace of their involvement in an activity of documenting human rights violations. Additionally, we experience internet outages for long periods of time (up to 3 months), which significantly affects the team’s ability to compile and share sensitive information for potential follow-up.”
–HURIDOCS partner organisation (organisation name withheld for security reasons)
Tella is designed for those whose safety is at risk, so it is free to download and use, and it will remain free forever. Download it from the Google Play store.
Interested in Uwazi?
Groups who seek to use Uwazi for human rights-related collections can contact us for more information. If you need support with the installation and setup of the Tella app, or if you need help to connect Tella to your Uwazi server, please reach out to either the Horizontal or HURIDOCS teams.