The role of tech in stopping human trafficking & modern slavery

Today is World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, something which could not be more important as globally there are over 45 million people in some form of slavery, generating over $150bn in illegal profits. The term 'modern slavery' covers a plethora of crimes and abuses ranging from withheld wages or documents, child labour in mining or natural resource explitation to sex-trafficking, domestic service and car-washing. It is a truly global crime and the official UK estimate is 13,000 modern slavery victims, but the real number is likely to be in six figures. 

So what role can tech play in stopping this? Tech is already revolutionising crime fighting (as anyone active in our Justice and Emergency Services programme will know) with new data tools giving better insight, real time intelligence and linking together disparate data sets. This helps reveal patterns and frees up time for border agencies and officers. 

As high-tech as this is, simpler technologies have a role to play too. Unseenuk.org run the hugely successful UK modern slavery helpline and today launched an app to help people report suspected modern slavery. Apps have been developed to help victim support and websites such as LaborVoices let people in vulnerable communities and large companies read first hand worker experiences from different factories and workplaces.

Nascent technologies are also making a difference. UK based Provenance use Distributed Ledger Technology to document and verify processes in fishing fleets (a problem sector for modern slavery) and global procurement software provider SAP Ariba partnered with Made in a Free World, to use their cloud, AI and analytics software suite to scrutinise supply chains. Elsewhere data business Dun and Bradstreet run the Human Trafficking Risk Index, allowing companies to analyse their own operations to reveal modern slavery risks. Worldwide there are many more brilliant examples.

Last year a Wilton Park conference looked to see how the tech sector can work together to combat modern slavery and understand the problems that need to be overcome. A year on from from this event we were delighted to help launch a new initiative called Tech Against Trafficking which brings together tech firms, NGOs and Governments to collaborate on new tools and getting the tech to those who need it. The first project is underway and a long term strategy will be published later in the year. If you want to get involved with Tech Against Trafficking please email craig.melson@techuk.org. 

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