About

Capture, organise and analyse.

In Swahili, Uwazi means “openness,” and it was based on this principle that Uwazi was born.

Uwazi

Uwazi is an open-source application that allows you to organise a collection of information and, in the process, reveal previously hidden patterns, relationships and opportunities for action. It is developed by HURIDOCS (Human Rights Information and Documentation Systems), an NGO that, for the past four decades, has equipped human rights defenders with tools and strategies to mobilise information.

In Swahili, Uwazi means “openness,” and it was based on this principle that Uwazi was born. Human rights groups deal with enormous amounts of data, accumulating years’ or even decades’ worth of facts and materials that support the case for change. However, without safe, efficient and collaborative ways of managing it all, many of the insights contained in these collections will remain closed off to the very people who need them most.

History

Uwazi was first launched in 2017 as a tool to improve access to regional jurisprudence. In consultations with human rights defenders, we had learned that it was difficult for them to not only locate a relevant court ruling, but to also see how it fit into the bigger picture: case documents needed to be connected to the judgment document, which needed to be connected to the deciding judge’s case history, and so on. We thus designed Uwazi as a web-based application for capturing and organising a collection of documents beyond simply its metadata (such as title, author, date published, etc.). Within the substance of a document lies important information and Uwazi enables you to highlight, tag, organise, and relate items to other documents.

But it soon became clear that Uwazi had potential to be much more than just a document management tool. Human rights defenders don’t just work with collections of PDFs and text documents—they also gather troves of information, observations, geolocation points, multimedia files and other data that can be hard to parse in bulk.

We have since expanded Uwazi, creating a database application that is helpful for a wide selection of changemakers, from activists, advocates, lawyers and policymakers who conduct human rights work, to academics, archivists, media organisations and others who work to make a positive difference in the world.

Initial Uwazi development received significant financial support from the MacArthur Foundation and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL). Uwazi continues to be updated and refined on a regular basis by the team at HURIDOCS, which is funded through a combination of grants, payments for services and individual donations.

Open-source development

Our in-house software engineers openly document the development of Uwazi on the GitHub platform. At HURIDOCS, we believe that any technology being developed for human rights work needs to be open source. The open-source software development model embraces values such as transparency, collaboration, inclusivity and community. Open-source development does not guarantee utility or security, but it does facilitate input from a wide selection of people—human rights defenders, developers, security experts—whose expertise is fundamental to a successful product.

Recognition for Uwazi

In May 2022, Uwazi was recognised as a finalist in the AI and data category of Fast Company’s 2022 World-Changing Ideas Awards. The winners, finalists and honourees in the AI and data category, are all projects that harness the power of data, machine learning, or artificial intelligence to understand the world and empower change.

In June 2021, HURIDOCS has been named the winner of the Peace and Justice Strong Institutions Award at the 2021 edition of CogX, a UK-based festival of AI and emerging technology. The Award recognises HURIDOCS' machine learning work, such as some of the smart features that are available in Uwazi. Among other things, these features can automatically fetch information from an online source, extract the basic elements of a document, and make highly accurate suggestions for how to categorise it.

In May 2019, Google announced that HURIDOCS is one of 20 organisations that will share 25 million US dollars in grants from the Google Artificial Intelligence Impact Challenge. The grant was used to develop and use machine learning methods to extract, explore and connect relevant information in laws, jurisprudence, victim testimonies, and resolutions.

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Uwazi is helping us to improve case management, supervision and reporting, as we have detailed control based on the structure of our data collection and documentation tools.

— Mavi Cruz Reyes, Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Matías de Córdoba (FrayMa)

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After 30 days, we offer scaled hosting packages. Using Uwazi for human rights impact? The first 100MB are complementary.

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