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Tella user stories

CLEEN Foundation - Nigeria


CLEEN foundation used Tella for election monitoring in Nigeria. They received 7,800 reports from election observers that helped them identify cases of police violence and electoral fraud in real-time. The reports included photos, videos, and audio evidence, in addition to text descriptions. CLEEN foundation was able to receive, analyze and publish the results of the election monitoring process the day after the election and a report with recommendations to the Nigerian government to improve security in upcoming elections, reduce violence, and prevent fraud.

👥 +1000 users

📲 7800 reports including images, audio and videos

🗄️ Connection: ODK (Kobotoolbox)

The CLEEN Foundationis a non-governmental organization established in 1998 in Nigeria with the mission of promoting public safety, security and accessible justice through empirical research, legislative advocacy, demonstration programs and publications, in partnership with government, civil society and the private sector.

CLEEN first deployed Tella in February and March 2019 to monitor the behavior of Nigerian security forces during the country’s General Elections. With predictions of militarization and violence of the electoral process, monitoring was critical. Using Tella, CLEEN was able to:

  • Collect data from hundreds of users from all around the country
  • Identify patterns of violence and electoral fraud in real-time
  • Protect the data collected from tampering and interference
  • Make informed policy recommendations to the Nigerian government

Prior to deploying Tella, the CLEEN Foundation’s documentation efforts centered on WhatsApp: hundreds of observers sent photos, videos, and text to one WhatsApp number to report issues with the electoral process. CLEEN staff would then download the material and attempt to organize it to identify patterns. This was an extremely cumbersome and time-intensive process: it was difficult to keep track of who sent what and to analyze data that came in many different formats. In other cases, CLEEN used Google Forms, which allowed for more structure but didn’t support the sending of multimedia files or offline data collection.

In February 2019, with the support from Horizontal, CLEEN deployed Tella to observe Nigeria’s 2019 General Elections. Horizontal installed Kobotoolbox, the software that served as back-end repository for the data, on a private server for CLEEN and maintained it over time. Throughout the deployment, Horizontal also provided support and guidance on how to best shape the forms used to collect data and how to deploy Tella on the ground. CLEEN trained dozens of state coordinators on the app, who in turn trained hundreds of observers in their respective states. Each of those “accredited observers” was given a username and password, so that each dataset could be linked to an observer for follow-up questions and verification. In addition, CLEEN published instructions for anyone to become a “citizen observer” and send data on Tella through a guest account.

CLEEN created forms to ask observers the specific questions they were interested in–how many security officers were present at the polling station, at what time they arrived, etc– and to report incidents. The incident reports allowed observers to write a description of the incident and to attach photos, videos, and audio evidence.

Throughout the electoral process, CLEEN received a total of 7,800 reports: 6,300 from accredited observers and 1,500 from citizen observers. Those reports came in real or near real-time, allowing CLEEN to release several reports on Election Days: one mid-day and one after all polling stations had closed. You can see here one of those reports, published the day after the elections, and another post with key findings and recommendations to the Nigerian government to improve security in upcoming elections, reduce violence, and prevent fraud.

Following the success of this first deployment, CLEEN deployed Tella to investigate human trafficking in Nigeria, better understand its causes, and identify potential remedies.

Not1More - Brazil


Not1More (N1M) used Tella to document violations of environmental and land rights in the Brazilian Amazon. In Brazil frontline environmental defenders have been suffering attacks and persecution and indigenous communities have faced attacks on their cultures, territories, and way of life. Tella is a safe way to report violations while prioritizing safety for reporters. With the results, N1M along with researchers and communities developed a map that's used as an advocacy tool for environmental justice.

Not1More (N1M) is an environmental campaign group that supports frontline environmental defenders and investigates the root causes of environmental conflict. N1M supports those at the frontline of environmental protection, investigates environmental conflict and crime, working closely with at-risk defenders and communities in Cambodia, West Africa and Brazil.

N1M implemented Tella in Northeastern Brazil where indigenous communities have faced attacks on their cultures, territories, and way of life. Frontline environmental defenders in this region are being threatened, attacked, jailed or face smear campaigns because of their work. In 2019 alone, 24 land defenders were killed in Brazil. 90% of these murders occurred in the Amazon.

N1M uses Tella to document these attacks and violations against environmental and land rights activists. Mary Menton, a research fellow in Environmental Justice at University of Sussex and a member of the N1M explained that “In places like Brazil, the government is increasingly spying on non-governmental organizations and people who they see as a threat. It’s really important for activists to be as secure as possible in their data. We always have to make sure that we are not putting people at higher risk as they collect information and evidence”.

In addition to the app’s security and privacy features, N1M decided to adopt Tella because it allowed the organization to retain full ownership over the information collected and control who has access to it . “There is so much information collected that we don’t want to share. We really felt that activists should have the option. They should be able to be the ones who decide who has access to their information,” added Menton. Language availability in Portuguese was also a big factor in the decision.

In November 2019, during the Forest Defenders Conference in Brazil, Horizontal trained forest defenders on the use of Tella to safely collect data about the rights violations.

With the data collected, indigenous students and researchers at the Federal University of Bahia, Federal University of Recôncavo of Bahia, and State University of Bahia, created a website with a map that depicts evidence of the indigenous rights violations, collected with the use of Tella: APOINME (the Association of Indigenous Peoples and Organizations of the Northeast, Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo) used it as a tool to raise awareness about attacks on indigenous communities and advocate for better protection.

Election monitoring - Belarus


In the 2020 presidential elections in Belarus, civil society organizations deployed Tella to monitor the elections and document evidence of violations of electoral laws and procedures, as well as human rights abuses. Horizontal developed a custom version of Tella with a simplified user interface and default connection to the servers of the monitoring organizations. The app was translated to Belarusian and Russian. Over 250 users submitted a total of 1091 reports, despite the severe internet disruptions and the complete shutdown of mobile internet before, during, and after the election.

👥 250 users

📲 +1000 reports (photos, videos and form data)

🗄️ Connection: ODK (Kobotoolbox)

In Belarus, the autocratic regime of Alexander Lukashenko has long stifled fundamental rights and repressed the political opposition. Elections are neither free nor fair. For the first time in decades, however, the presidential elections of 2020 offered a potential avenue for change, with credible opposition candidates and a civil society reenergized by government incompetence in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In partnership with local civil society groups, Horizontal developed a custom version of Tella specifically designed for the needs of Belarusian observers. To reduce training needs and make onboarding as smooth as possible, the user interface was simplified and the app was connected to the servers of the monitoring organizations by default. It was also localized into Belarusian and Russian.

Tella had already been deployed in Belarus during the 2019 Parliamentary elections, so many observers were already familiar with the tool.

During early voting and on Election Day, observers used Tella to submit photos, videos, and additional information via forms, in a structured and standardized format so that it could be quickly analyzed. Severe internet disruptions and the complete shutdown of mobile internet before, during, and after the election prevented observers from immediately transferring the data they collected to their organizations. However, Tella’s offline capabilities allowed users to continue collecting data and keep it safe and secure on their device until they could upload it to the server.

Despite internet disruptions, 250 observers used Tella to submit a total of 1091 reports.

In the aftermath of the elections, official results claimed that Lukashenko was re-elected to a sixth term in office with 80% of the vote. Local and international organizations questioned the integrity of this election. The data collected by independent observers, including with Tella, revealed widespread violations of electoral laws and procedures, as well as extensive human rights abuse.

In its post-election report, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in its recent report wrote that human rights abuses “were found to be massive and systematic and proven beyond doubt”. Among countless violations, observers documented intimidation and persecution of activists, detention of prospective candidates, election fraud, restriction on access to information, beatings, and sexual violence. Observers themselves were threatened, detained, and barred from the polling stations. According to OSCE, “the vote was not transparent, free or fair”. The server was shut down a few months after the elections, once all the data was downloaded and processed by the organization.