MediCapt is a mobile application, under development by the Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones at Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), to help clinicians more effectively collect, document, and preserve forensic medical evidence of sexual violence to support the local prosecution of these crimes. This critical tool converts a standardized medical intake form for forensic documentation to a digital platform and combines it with a secure mobile camera to facilitate forensic photography. By combining these components, MediCapt will help preserve critical forensic medical evidence of mass atrocities, including sexual violence and torture, for use in courts. Health care providers will use the app to compile medical evidence, photograph survivors’ injuries, and securely transmit the data to authorities engaged in prosecuting and seeking accountability for such crimes.
PHR is developing MediCapt to support clinicians in the provision of medical care to survivors and the documentation of injuries. This new tool will enable health professionals to gather the required medical data – in a standardized way – so that their legal counterparts can manage the entire evidentiary chain more effectively.
Among its many essential features, MediCapt includes sophisticated encryption, cloud data storage, high fidelity to chain of custody standards, and tamper-proof metadata. The app’s data mapping feature reveals patterns or prevalence of violence, including the widespread or systematic nature of offences critical to demonstrating crimes against humanity. MediCapt also facilitates early warning of and rapid response to mass crimes. Significantly, the app is designed to securely collect data in conflict zones, as well as remote locations where wireless data transmission is limited. The tool can also accommodate the various languages and literacy levels of its users.
Pilot Testing and Collaborative Design
PHR is committed to employing a process called collaborative design or “co-design” whereby end-user feedback is sought early in the development process so that MediCapt truly responds to their needs. As part of this iterative development process, PHR piloted the second generation of MediCapt in January 2015 in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with clinicians from Bukavu, Goma, Minova, and Uvira in North and South Kivu provinces. In 2015, PHR hopes to scale up MediCapt for use in North and South Kivu provinces and other locations where mass atrocities, including sexual violence and torture, are widespread. International adoption of this new technology will be a crucial contribution to ending impunity for these crimes.
RightsCon Southeast Asia and Responsible Data Forum on Human Rights Documentation
In March 2015, PHR presented “MediCapt: Tackling Technology in a Low-Resourced Environment” at RightsCon Southeast Asia and attended the Responsible Data Forum on Human Rights Documentation in Manila, Philippines. PHR had a chance to introduce MediCapt to a different geographic region and to learn from various NGOs, activists, and technologists pursuing technology for low-resourced communities in this region. As security remains of paramount concern for the development of MediCapt, PHR attended these conferences to expand our awareness of emerging technologies in this space and to brainstorm possible solutions that can be employed in the DRC.
An article by Widney Brown and Sucharita S.K Varanasi, “Mobile technology to improve data collection after sexual violence,” was published in a special issue, S19, March 2015 of The Lancet Global Health. PHR presented the paper at the CUGH Global Health Conference in Boston, MA on the “Innovations, New Technologies, Improvement Science” panel.
In 2013, MediCapt won first prize in the USAID-Humanity United Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention competition in the Safe Documentation category. The Tech Challenge emerged from President Barack Obama’s Genocide Prevention Initiative, launched in April 2012, under which he pledged to support creative 21st-century solutions to prevent mass atrocities.
Tech & Human Rights Blog Series
PHR’s Tech & Human Rights Blog Series is meant to highlight the intersection between technology and human rights, and to examine the increasing role that technology can play in advancing human rights around the world. You can find all blog posts in this series here.