Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Martus training day

Spent the day with Mindanao-based human rights groups on a train-the-trainer session on Martus, a job for which I have been commissioned by the Foundation for Media Alternatives and The Asia Foundation.

Martus, for those of you who don't know it, is a human rights violation reporting software in use by NGOs all over the world. It was developed by Beneficient Technologies (Benetech, for short), itself a unique company that's developing technologies for social change.

By itself, Martus doesn't look particularly impressive. In fact, it looks like a klunky old email client. But Martus' strong suit isn't its interface, it's security: Martus encrypts bulletins so that only the author and the parties he chooses can read any data marked private. Likewise, the data can only be modified by the author and all such bulletins are practically guaranteed to come from the source.

I'm tickled by some of the paranoid features, too. Passwords are entered via an onscreen keyboard to circumvent any keylogging. The client times out after a minute or so of inactivity. And there's a button that let's you quickly delete the Martus software and all associated bulletins from your disk. Yeah, I laugh it now, but considering some of the very real dangers that its users are exposed to, well, I can pretty much understand.

Did I mention that Martus was also open-source? Ummm, yeah.

The training has also been good exposure to folks in circles I don't normally travel in. I've met guys working with Task Force Detainees, Philippine Association of Human Rights Advocates, Tabang Bakwit, and Bangsa Moro Youth. Pretty cool people, too, after all.

Next stop: Cotabato and Zamboanga.