Human traffickers have integrated technology into their business model at every stage of the process, from the seeking, recruitment and the exploitation of their victims to the transfer and laundering of the illicit profits of this crime.
The internet, including social media, online gaming platforms and dating apps, is being used increasingly by criminal networks, as people of all ages and backgrounds spend more time online.
At the same time, technology has a crucial role to play in preventing human trafficking. It can be used to raise awareness of this crime and identify victims, support police investigations and prosecutions, and trace the assets gathered by the perpetrators.
This May, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Canada’s International Centre for Prevention of Crime (ICPC) are staging the country’s first-ever virtual innovation competition to find technology-based solutions to combat human trafficking especially of children and among indigenous, Inuit and LGBTQI+ communities.
The ‘DataJam Against Exploitation’, is co-organized by the technology company IBM and the Colombia-based organization, Fundación Pasos Libres, which have already cooperated with UNODC on four successful events to develop anti-human trafficking tools.
“Tapping into the potential and talent of young people is absolutely essential. We need all the tools possible to fight this crime,” says UNODC’s Martin Hemmi. “Past events have led to the development of solutions to identify trafficking patterns, track criminal networks, locate trafficking hotspots, as well as to collect and analyse data,” he adds.
The eleven-day online event is open to up to 200 students, graduates, and professionals with a knowledge of information technology, data analysis or crime prevention.
It aims to shed light on the exploitation of Canada’s most vulnerable communities and lead to the development of tools to identify and protect trafficking victims and support prosecutions.
“This is a great opportunity for us to discuss with international and Canadian experts the issue of human trafficking, a crime that essentially targets fragile communities,” says ICPC Analyst and Project Officer, Yasmina Aziki
“We can’t tackle and prevent this horrendous crime without the help of all stakeholders, among them, tech companies, experts from state agencies and community-based organizations. And we need the engagement and creativity of young people,” she adds.
Participants will have access to IBM’s cutting-edge technologies, open data and coaching provided by UNODC’s anti-trafficking experts, IBM and other partners.
Sebastián Arévalo Sánchez, co-founder and CEO of Paso Libres, designed the concept for the Canadian competition. “This DataJam will generate solutions to disrupt human trafficking in Canada based on Canadian data,” he says.
“Beyond the development of the technological solutions, the main success of past events was to bring together young participants, global experts, and leading organizations from different sectors and see them learning and working collectively towards the same goal,” adds Mr. Sanchez.
As with former competitions, the teams behind the winning designs will have the opportunity to develop their tools further and work with the Traffik Analysis Hub, a global data hub that shares information about human trafficking across all industries and sectors.
The “DataJam Against Exploitation” will take place from 7 to 17 May 2021. Participants must be over 18 and resident in Canada. More information here. Registration for this event starts on 1 April 2021 here.