OpenWatch: Using Mobile To Enable Public Monitoring

There are instances of donor funded big budget public monitoring initiatives which are not so open to public or are specific to certain areas. But ICT is enabling ordinary people to use social media and cheap tools like mobile phones to increase transparency and easy public monitoring. OpenWatch is a participatory citizen media project which uses mobile technology to enable public monitoring of corrupt practices and repression.

In many countries undemocratic governments and repressive authorities abuse power and indulge in corruption. Surveillance technology is currently only available to authorities which leads to the question “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” – Who watches the watchers? On the other hand citizens equipped with widely available mobile phone and other tools are increasingly emerging as whistle-blowers and are sharing more and more evidences of corruption and repression. That's where OpenWatch comes in.

OpenWatch consists of two parts, a free mobile phone application for Android and iOS which invisibly records audio and video, and an open source software to collect the recordings. All content on the site is the copyright of OpenWatch administrators and contributors and is released under the Creative-Commons Attribution 3.0 license. Users who do not have a smartphone to install the apps can also call a number to make remote recordings on OpenWatch system. The goal is that these evidences can be used to reveal corrupt practices and repression, and help bring those responsible to justice.

Here is a video explaining how OpenWatch works:

Click on the video to watch

Here are the steps explained:

Step 1: Download one of OpenWatch’s apps: either openwatch or Cop Recorder. Both are free, as are their source codes.

Step 2: When you want to secretly record either audio or video, open the app and click either “Record Audio” or “Record Video.” The app will begin to record immediately, but it will appear to close. In the case of audio recording, it will return to the home screen. If you choose to record video, the screen will go blank, as if the phone has been turned off.

Step 3: Once you wish to end your recording, open the app again. The recording will immediately stop, and you will be prompted to describe the recording. The content will be uploaded to a secure server at, where it will be examined by openwatch and, if required, submitted for further investigation.

OpenWatch's founder Rich Jones (23) says that the project was inspired by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s concept of “scientific journalism,” journalism that’s based on documents or data but that also makes those primary sources available to the audience. He shares a lesson from Wikileaks – “for a high-profile radical transparency project to have any staying power, there can't be a single point of failure.” He believes that “crowd-sourcing the collection of secret information is possible”.

Read an interview with Rich Jones at the NewsMeBack Blog.

Please follow this project on Twitter and the project blog.

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