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.