Engaging with Innovative Ideas to
Prevent Trafficking in Persons

 

Winners of the 2021 DataJam.
Photo: UNODC HTMSS.

 

Vancouver, Canada: Human traffickers have integrated technology into their business model at every stage of the process, from the seeking to 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, with people of all ages and backgrounds spending more time online. At the same time, technology has a crucial role to play in preventing trafficking in persons. 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. 

Brian Rae first heard about human trafficking at the age of 17, while volunteering at a foster home in China. That experience made him realize the severity of the issue and led him to abandon his architecture studies to pursue a career as a lawyer, determined to dedicate himself to the abolition of trafficking in persons. Brian is currently in his final year of law school at the University of Victoria, Canada and in the past few years, has worked tirelessly to combat human trafficking in his spare time through volunteering with an anti-trafficking organization, presenting at schools and holding fundraisers.

Eager to learn more about the human trafficking industry and the work happening to combat it, when a friend told him about the DataJam competition, he immediately got in touch with some friends with programming experience to form a team and participate in the event.

The "DataJam Against Exploitation" is a technological innovation competition that aims to increase public awareness on trafficking in persons, improve participants technical and substantive capabilities, and enhance collaboration among interdisciplinary sectors in Canada. Co-organized by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), Fundación Pasos Libres, IBM Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canada’s International Centre for the Prevention of Crime (ICPC), the online event took place from 7 to 17 May 2021 and engaged approximately 200 students, graduates and professionals. The event focused on enhancing knowledge of information technology, data analysis and crime prevention in training and mentoring programs on human trafficking and IBM  technologies as well as the design of tech-based solutions to solve specific human trafficking dynamics. The participants teamed up in multidisciplinary groups of four or five to elaborate solutions for three challenges: 1) Protect those most vulnerable to human trafficking; 2) Prevent online exploitation; and 3) Disrupt human trafficking patterns.

“It was incredible to see people from such diverse backgrounds from all over the world coming together to tackle this global criminal industry,” says Brian Rae, whose team “Buyer Resist” won the competition and the opportunity of being included in the IBM incubator program to facilitate development of proposed solutions.
 
“We were elated for the opportunity to work with such talented experts, informed speakers, and friendly mentors throughout the competition,” says Mr. Rae, adding that although losing a lot of sleep, his team “learned so much through the process,” including that “...human trafficking will never be abolished unless we all work together”.
 
Brian Rae, Team Leader of "Buyer Resist"
“We are continuing to work on our solution and hope that this technology puts a significant dent in the awful industry of human trafficking,” continues Mr. Rae, looking forward to the upcoming global DataJam Pasos Libres 2021 to which the “Buyer Resist” have been invited to compete. Mr. Rae concludes expressing his team’s gratitude, “...for everyone involved in the competition and especially for those who choose to continue fighting for the freedom of our vulnerable people.” 
 
UNODC’s Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Section continues to support efforts of Member States to combat human trafficking through a multi-stakeholder approach by engaging with governmental institutions, the private sector, civil society organizations and youth to build an effective response to human trafficking that is transnational, multifaceted and interrelated. Through initiatives such as the DataJam, UNODC shows its commitment to delivering expertise to Member States by investing in people through mentorship and training programmes for the detection, investigation, prosecution and conviction of traffickers, as well as protection and support of the victims.
 
By addressing human trafficking, the competition contributes to a number of goals and targets that are part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. For instance, the initiative assists in the achievement of SDG Target 8.7 on eradicating forced labour, ending modern slavery and human trafficking and all forms of child labour; SDG Target 10.2 on empowering and promoting the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic to other status; and, Target 16.2 on ending abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.
 
The initiative also supports SDG Target 5.2 on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls, including human trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation and SDG Target 16.3 on promoting the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all. As the competition is created though multi-stakeholder partnerships, the activity promotes SDG 17, in particular Target 17.16 on multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources as well as Target 17.17 on encouraging effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships and building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partners.