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Going Open-Source: Increasing Access to SGBV Data and Tools

With the support of Elhra’s Humanitarian Innovation Fund, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has made strides in improving, piloting, and scaling MediCapt. MediCapt is PHR’s mobile application that was collaboratively designed with partner clinicians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Kenya to enable clinicians to document and safely store forensic evidence of sexual violence as well as securely transmit evidence to the police and justice sectors. By facilitating secure documentation and sharing of forensic evidence, MediCapt ensures that many more sexual violence survivors are able to access justice for the harms they have suffered.

PHR’s development and design of MediCapt have been guided by the Principles for Digital Development, which underscore the importance of open-source innovation to increase collaboration, avoid duplication, strengthen innovation, and increase impact. In 2022, PHR successfully published MediCapt 2.0’s code as open source, a significant step toward increasing access to forensic documentation tools for communities across the globe. Going open source also provides an opportunity to continue to strengthen the application as the open-source publication of MediCapt’s code creates space for PHR to engage with other open-source communities who focus on the security and transparency of sensitive data storage. Through increased collaboration with experts in those open-source communities, PHR can further enhance the security and privacy features of the application. PHR will not only support innovation in the global community by going open source, but we will also have increased opportunities for gathering feedback and improving MediCapt as the code evolves. The published open-source code is available on GitHub.

Clinicians at HEAL Africa Hospital in the Democratic Republic of the Congo use the MediCapt application to support forensic documentation of sexual violence

In addition to publishing MediCapt 2.0’s code as open source, PHR is committed to advancing access to information through open-access publications. In 2022, PHR was able to publish an open-source journal article on the use of MediCapt in Kenya thanks to the Humanitarian Innovation Fund’s support. Published in PLOS ONE, the article, “Evaluating the effectiveness of a mobile application to improve the quality, collection, and usability of forensic documentation of sexual violence,” was the result of a study PHR conducted to understand the effectiveness and usability of MediCapt to document forensic medical evidence of sexual violence in Kenya. The findings concluded that MediCapt was well-received across all sectors and significantly increased the quality of forensic documentation. By publishing these data in an open-access journal, PHR’s learnings and findings on MediCapt are readily available to others working in similar contexts or on related projects to inform their initiatives.

PHR is committed to increasing access to information and data through the publication of resources on open-source platforms. Moving forward, PHR looks forward to the continued improvement and evolution of the MediCapt application through collaboration with experts in the global community and will continue to share research on the tool and evidence of its utility through open-source publications whenever possible. Similarly, MediCapt’s data will continue to be published open access on PHR’s website.

Physicians for Human Rights’ Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones Team

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