Managing documents and archives the digital way.
Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) – a leading network of leading organizations, media professionals and activists from seven different countries – since its foundation in 2005, had been at the forefront of promoting freedom of speech, human rights and democratic values in the Balkans region. Having been part of the network since 2005, BIRN office in Kosovo was sitting on top of a vast amount of data and information produced and collected by its staff and those of other country offices over the years.
While in its beginnings, sending small and large attachments via emails was good enough, it soon became clear that the amount of data that had been accumulated over the years was in dire need of an effective filing and sorting system. In order for its staff to be able to navigate through the amount of different types of files, including PDF, Word, scanned documents, photos and many others and make it useful in its daily work, BIRN approached us for a solution that would put all of the gathered material in one place and make it easy and quick to search, find and access.
Having identified our client’s need, we sat down and determined the amount of time that will be needed to come up with the solution, as well as mapped key technologies that would be most useful for the task at hand. Throughout the process, we held regular meetings with our client, either in our offices or via video calls, which helped us inform our client about the progress made. This way we made sure that we are on the same page from the very start of the project.
As in any other project, initially we took our time to go through the details with our client and determine the exact solution needed in this case. As a result, we came to the conclusion that what is needed is a Document Management System web application for journalists, media and other users to use as an online archive of digital documents and scanned text, which also allow sharing of source documents.
Keeping an organization spread over seven countries on the same page is not an easy feat. Together with BIRN, we developed a web application that contained all the data gathered throughout the years and made it accessible for all network country members. To achieve this, we focused on making search modules responsive to special characters of different languages spoken in all seven country offices.
The application allows BIRN staff to upload files in a safe and private manner, as well as share those documents, make them public, or embed them. They can view documents that other people have uploaded such as reports, legislation, declassified documents, and correspondence.
As part of the project, the available information was first gathered in one place and then sorted out based on file type. This allowed us to come up with the sitemap of the application that would serve as and efficient and easy-to-use platform for managing the documents. The application also contains a feature, which allowed the BIRN staff to search for scanned documents as well as highlight and add notes into the scanned files. This was a crucial part of the application since a significant amount of data that BIRN possessed was scanned documents shared between offices through the years.
A major feature the web application is how well it works with printed files. When a PDF scanned as an image is uploaded, the platform will read it with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to recognize the words in the file. This enables investigative journalists to upload documents from original sources and make them publicly accessible, as well as process documents much more easily.
By this point, the application was ready to be used, pending one last step. The collected data, which had been stored in personal HDDs and other cloud storage platforms had to be transferred to the newly created application. To do this effectively and without losing any information on the way, our team developed data migration modules that enabled quick and effective transferal of files from the old platforms to the new one.
For an organization that thrives on data to cover breaking news or to conduct investigative journalism, having the information easily reachable and accessible is critical. Today BIRN has a well functioning and responsive tool that makes that streamlines the work of its staff and makes it efficient, effective and less time-consuming.