Tech Gets Enlisted In The War Against Human Trafficking
By SHEILA RILEY, FOR INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY Posted 12/03/2010 04:38 PM ET
The fight against human trafficking is using a few new weapons: texting, iPhone apps and smarter passports.
An estimated 12.3 million adults and children around the world are trafficked — compelled in a variety of ways to work against their will — the U.S. State Department says.
“It’s basically modern-day slavery,” said Mark Latonero, research director for the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center. “It’s a pernicious and widespread global problem.”
The term “trafficking” covers a wide area.
“It’s not just forced prostitution, it’s also forced labor — people working in slaverylike conditions on farms, fishing boats, in nail salons, whatever,” Latonero said.
He’s working on a project to make it easier to get help for trafficking victims via cell phone.
The Technology and Trafficking in Persons Research Initiative will allow concerned citizens, potential trafficking victims and possibly victims themselves to text information to a hotline. The project is led by the Annenberg Center.
Texts will be sorted by a computer and sent to appropriate agencies that could help, Latonero says.
The initiative focuses on the Mekong region in Southeast Asia: Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, southern China and Burma.
“This part of the world is a major source, transit and destination region for men, women and children forced into labor and prostitution,” Latonero said.
Cell Phones Aplenty
The program could be in place by mid-2011 in Thailand, with government funding and philanthropic grants expected to cover the $500,000-plus launch costs.
Though residents of the region are extremely poor — which makes them vulnerable to trafficking — most have cell phones, Latonero says.
“That,” he said, “is our opportunity.”
Phones are used on another front in the fight against trafficking. An iPhone application for consumers concerned about whether forced or child labor was used to create their purchase became available last month.
The app, Free2Work, is a joint project of Not For Sale, a San Francisco anti-slavery nonprofit, and the International Labor Rights Forum, a nonprofit advocacy organization for workers. Juniper Networks (JNPR) funded the development of the application, which is free.
With the app, shoppers can access information about the labor practices of some 60 companies, including Nike (NKE), Hasbro (HAS), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Apple (AAPL). It rates the companies’ labor practices. Not For Sale compiles information from company Web sites and public databases to create its corporate ratings.
“It’s when people are shopping that they really need that information,” said Dave Batsone, president of Not For Sale.
(See original Investor’s Business Daily Article here).
Communication technology serves as a rare bright spot in Haitian recovery, CCLP research trip finds
The Republic of Haiti continues to struggle in its recovery efforts following the devastating January 2010 earthquake, but information and communication technologies are among the few infrastructure bright spots in the country, based on the observations from a recent fact-finding trip, in which the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy (CCLP) participated.
CCLP Research Director Mark Latonero, who was selected for the week-long research project because of his work in communication technology and emergency management, found that cell phones and text messages were critical tools for sharing information about recovery efforts in the earthquake ravaged country.
“Port-au-Prince still lacks basic infrastructure like running water, electricity, or permanent housing,” explained Latonero. “But, mobile phones are up and running.”
It may seem counter-intuitive or technically challenging, but Haiti, a country which derives its electrical power mostly from a limited supply of generators, has a network of cell phone users. Solar powered recharging stations and pay-as-you-go mobile phone plans allow Haitians to make phone calls and send text messages with relative ease.
“Digicel, the largest company in Haiti, is contributing needed resources not only for the country’s mobile services, but for physical reconstruction of schools and the central market,” wrote Latonero in a preliminary report of his trip findings. “Local communities, NGOs, and international relief agencies in Port au Prince are using mobile phones to alert the dispersed population about public health emergencies and protect against human trafficking and sexual gender based violence.”
The four-person research trip organized by the New York Institute of Technology was designed to study firsthand the participatory rebuilding initiatives in Haiti that utilize innovative information and communication technologies. The team met the CEO of Digicel Haiti and representatives from numerous relief organizations, including the International Organization for Migration, Architects for Humanity, and Digital Democracy, who use mobile phones to monitor gender based violence in camps and shelters in Port-au-Prince.
(left to right) Tobias Holler, Maaren Boute (CEO Digicel Haiti), Cynthia Barton, Nader Vossoughian, and Mark Latonero
In addition to mobile communication, the International Organization for Migration runs the United Nations relief camps and provides the displaces persons with a newspaper service, interactive kiosks, and and dramatic, educational radio programming to spread public health and safety information.
“Our team will reflect on our experiences and look into ways to help,” Latonero explained. “One need is to provide Haitian builders with information on seismic housing construction.”
Latonero’s case study of mobile phone usage in post-earthquake Haiti is only the latest in the Center’s ongoing research into technology and social change. In August, Latonero led a research project in the Mekong Sub Region on the broader use of information technology in combating human trafficking.
(From the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership blog http://communicationleadership.usc.edu/blog/communication_technology_rare_bright_spot_in_haitian_recovery_cclp_research_trip_finds.html)
From USC Annenberg News:
“Mobile Voices wins UN information technology award
Mobile Voices/Voces Móviles, the microblogging project designed in collaboration with USC Annenberg and the Institute of Popular Education of Southern California, or IDEPSCA, has won a United Nations-sponsored World Summit Award for innovative mobile applications.
“Today, we fulfilled where we said that Mobile Voices is a window to the universe where the voices of those who for centuries have been excluded can be heard,” read a statement prepared by the IDEPSCA Popular Communication team, the group of day laborers and household workers who developed the Mobile Voices system.
Mobile Voices is an open-source platform that lets mobile phone users post text, photo and video content to a publicly available website. Day laborers and household workers across Los Angeles, as well as members of the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LACAN), have used the interface to report news, distribute information and share stories about their work, lives, and their points of view.
“One of the unique strengths of VozMob is that it was designed from the start in close collaboration with the immigrant workers it serves,” said communication professor François Bar (pictured at right), one of the USC Annenberg scholars on the project team. “This United Nations award brings global recognition to the value of our participatory design approach.”
The awards are given by the United Nations in recognition of online and mobile content that promotes global digital access and inclusion in the communication revolution, especially in developing countries and underserved communities. More than 420 products from nearly 100 countries were considered for awards.
Mobile Voices is one of five winners in the “m-Inclusion & Empowerment” category, targeted to those apps that “support integration within the global information society.” Other winners in the category included a German application providing resources for handicapped people and an SMS-integrated program linking remote communities in Guatemala.
The winning project teams will receive their awards in December at the World Summit Award Mobile Winners’ Gala, Conference and Expo in Abu Dhabi. In addition to an awards ceremony, the three-day conference brings together global leaders in mobile application development for networking and knowledge exchange.
Bar said the award was “a great honor for everyone who has worked hard to make VozMob a success — IDEPSCA and LACAN workers, community organizers, Annenberg students and open-source programmers.”"
Among a number of initiatives New York based Digital Democracy is implemeting is a gender based violence centered program in Port-au-Prince in the runup to the Nov 28, 2010 Hatian elections.
Abby Goldberg writes:
“With the support of the U.S. Institute for Peace (USIP), Dd came to Haiti to help some 50 women representing grassroots women’s groups in Port Au Prince work more effectively for greater political and social rights in the lead up to national elections on November 28th. This training followed up on two previous trainings this year, in April and July respectively, during which Dd staff worked with Haitian women to use mobile phones, video, and photography to increase their access to political power and rights. The focus of Dd’s work in Haiti has been to expand on the women’s understanding of and ability to use new communications and digital media tools to share their voice and report on their realities, this time, with a particular focus on Haitian democracy and the upcoming elections. As a part of this work, we sought to identify early warning indicators of election-related violence and how to report these findings to those who need to know. Women from the camps – the women we are working with – have the most incentive to combat violence and protect themselves and their loved ones. Women are the most attuned to, most affected by, and most motivated to stop violence in their communities. They also possess critical and unique information that can save lives.”
See full blog post here:
From their website:
“MobileActive.org’s vision is to help organizations make use of the most ubiquitous communications technology in the world with data, tools, and how-to resources; build a network of practitioners and technologists in a supportive community of practice; and highlight and explore the many innovative campaigns and projects — their lessons learned.
The global MobileActive community aggregates and builds upon the lessons learned from the pioneers in this field for the benefit of civil society organizations.
- Expand access to knowledge, ideas and experiences about the use of mobile technology to make the world a better place;
- Reduce learning costs for deploying mobile technology for civil society organizations;
- Accelerate the use of effective strategies and tactics of mobile use for NGOs;
- Provide a comprehensive platform for building partnerships, and for facilitating access to technology, know-how, and funding.”
From mobile active’s Melissa Ulbricht:
“Since the devastating earthquake in Haiti in January, thousands of internally displaced persons are living in camps, where it is often not easy to report incidences of violence. An ongoing project from Survivors Connect uses mobile phones to support camp managers and community leaders to protect women and encourage people to report incidences. The project, called Ayiti SMS SOS — Ayiti comes from the Creole word for Haiti — allows individuals to submit reports via SMS.
Survivors Connect is an organization that works to enhance anti-trafficking movements around the world through the use of new media and connective technology. Survivors Connect partners with grassroots organizations to incorporate new technology to help improve on-the-ground efforts toward protection, prosecution, and prevention.”
Created in the autumn of 2008, End Slavery Now (ESN) is a charitable organization based in Washington DC. Their mission is to utilize the widespread capabilities of the Internet to help fight against human trafficking. To do this, they have created an aggregate website that both serves to inform the public about trafficking while being a host to a bevy of links and information in how to get involved.
“Our purpose is to support the work of grassroots activists and anti-trafficking organizations, and to grow and advance the anti-trafficking movement, by consolidating and sharing resources, best practices, and events; and by promoting their work through various social media channels and free listings in the New Underground Railroad™.
ESN leverages the power of the Internet combined with database technology to empower members of the anti-trafficking movement to efficiently coordinate their efforts to combat slavery; to share information with partners and stakeholders; to coordinate grassroots efforts through social networking; and to make meaningful contributions in the anti-trafficking movement.”
Their website consists of: an up-to-date global news feed (as of 10/5/10), a self-published blog, photo and video galleries, a basic overview of the human trafficking situation, a global calendar of anti-trafficking events, governmental and organizational links that are anti-trafficking based, and additional ways to keep receiving updates via email to social networking tools.
The Center on Communication Leadership & Policy’s research team of Mark Latonero and Erin Kamler have returned from a fruitful exploratory trip for the Technology and Trafficking in Person project the Center is launching in Southeast Asia. According to a report prepared by the research team, an information sharing platform could provide significant assistance to agencies and organizations working to combat human trafficking in the Region. The full report of their findings can be downloaded here.
Latonero and Kamler are working with Senior Fellow Jeremy Curtin to move the project forward after a promising start.
From August 8 to August 15, the team met with numerous NGOs and government organizations in Bangkok, Thailand and Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
According to Latonero, “we focused on the Mekong Sub-Region (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Yunnan China and Burma), an area of critical needs in combating Trafficking and one in which possible technological solutions are just beginning to emerge. Our team centered the initial research trip on Thailand and Cambodia, listed as Tier 2 Watch List and Tier 2, respectively, in the Department of State’s 2010 TIP report. Both countries are source, transit and destination countries for men, women and children forced into labor and prostitution.”
The team conducted a needs and assets assessment of organizations working against human trafficking. CCLP proposes to focus on two interrelated immediate needs where technological solutions could have a significant impact: A regional cross-border SMS and voicemail enabled hotline; and a standardized victim identification and case management system to serve as an information sharing platform.
The TIP project was conceived out of a working group held in Washington, D.C. on June 3 in coordination with Alec Ross, Secretary Clinton’s Senior Advisor for Innovation. Participants included Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, head of the Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, other U.S. Government representatives, leaders in the technology field, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and academics active on TIP issues. Latonero and Kamler’s trip was originally announced on the CCLP blog on August 2, 2010.
I joined my colleagues from the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy at the USC Annenberg School on June 3, 2010 in D.C. to convene a meeting with the US Department of State to address the very question above.
There are pressing needs for NGOs, law enforcement, Governments, victims, and the general public dealing with Trafficking in Persons, also known as TIP, Human trafficking, and modern day slavery. Victims are usually isolated and even if rescued are socially cut off and unable to find the services they need most. NGOs for human trafficking often are not in regular communication with each other or, for example, HIV/AIDS NGOs. Law enforcement are often unable to access data and information about victims and perpetrators in country or across borders (and are sometimes complicit in trafficking activities). And the public are often unaware of the signs of human slavery that exist in their everyday lives. ICTs, particular mobile technologies and the Internet, help connect, locate, and share information about and among individuals and communities. Leveraging the assets of emerging ICTs to combat human trafficking is a pressing concern. The dilemma, of course, is that traffickers and slavers themselves use the very same technologies. Jeremy Curtin, Sr. Fellow at the Center wrote up the following re-posted from here: http://communicationleadership.usc.edu/blog/state_department_and_congressional_policymakers.html
CCLP & State Department launch exploration of ways to use Technology to combat Human Trafficking
State Department and Congressional policymakers, along with nongovernmental organization and technology industry leaders convened in Washington, D.C. Thursday, June 3, 2010 to explore new ways communication technology might be used in global efforts to combat human trafficking.
The meeting held at the USC Washington, D.C. Center was organized by USC Annenberg’s Center on Communication Leadership & Policy in partnership with assistance from the U.S. Department of State. Geoffrey Cowan, CCLP director and USC University Professor, co-chaired the gathering with Alec Ross, Secretary of State Clinton’s senior adviser for innovation.
Ross opened the meeting with remarks about 21st Century Statecraft, a concept introduced by Secretary Clinton that acknowledges the complexities of globalization and the proliferation of new technologies.
He posed questions as to what the role of new technologies should be in responding to global crisis, as well as the role of public-private partnerships. Using the recent disaster in Haiti as a launching-point, Ross asked how technology might be best utilized to connect governments to people, people to people, and people to governments. He explained that text-messaging projects were implemented immediately following the earthquake, raising millions of dollars for the relief effort and building public awareness about the disaster; however, these types of coordinated efforts have not yet been effectively undertaken to combat trafficking in persons (TIP). USC Annenberg’s role, he stated, would be to act as a “convener outside of government;” a safe and dynamic space to bring together people who can tackle TIP related issues in new, innovative ways.
Following Ross, Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, director of the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and Senior Advisor to the Secretary provided an detailed overview of the challenge.
Pointing out that human slavery is not a new problem, the Amb. CdeBaca identified three main issues that he hoped the meeting would address: demand, victim-care, and the ethical use of technology.
In regard to demand, Ambassador CdeBaca stated that [in both sex and labor trafficking] there is a need to “clean up the supply chain”; potentially using technology to “name and shame” those who perpetuate related crimes.. About victim-care, he reminded participants that vulnerability and victimization come in many forms: from economic and gender-based forms of discrimination, to mental illness and situations of domestic abuse. He noted the need to create jobs to provide to victims of human trafficking during their rehabilitation. Finally, in regard to technology and ethics, the Ambassador reminded the group that many new technologies are, in fact, created using exploitative labor and human slavery. We have an obligation, he said, to know how our technology is being made and to make sure it is created under ethical conditions.
Cowan moderated a focused and engaged discussion in which he asked participants to describe ground-level view of conditions in various countries as they pertained to trafficking in persons. The needs of victims, service providers, and policy makers were considered. Of particular interest were the types of social support services available to victims and the steps that many organizations have already taken to integrate new technologies into their efforts.
Amy O’Neill Richard, Senior Adviser in the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP) described a national trafficking hotline that has been implemented with support from Lexis Nexis, while Eric Beinhart of USAID described an effort led by Microsoft to educate the public and isolate predators through gathering and sharing case data about child exploitation and trafficking. Several participants spoke to the idea of empowering community members through implementing SMS texting and crowd-sourcing technology.
Participants also identified key problems and discussion topics related to trafficking in persons, and asked technology experts to respond to these issues as they were introduced.
Some of these problems/discussion topics included: the use of anti-phishing/spam to be used to address labor trafficking issues; tracking illegitimate websites and job offers through a “TripAdvisor” for jobs model; the systemization of border patrol and better training of law enforcement officers (particularly in the developing world); links between trafficking and disease; the use of Google mapping or satellite imagery to combat TIP; making information about human resources more readily available and accessible in an effort to prevent TIP; using technology to track transit routes; making SMS transactions more accessible; creating a unified system for capturing data on trafficking-related criminal cases country-to-country; accurately counting and representing victims; using photography as a tool to combat TIP; capturing and organizing data about perpetrators [across the sex trafficking exploitation chain] (traffickers, pimps and johns); unified legal oversight and prosecution across sovereign borders; and how technology can help service providers implement and share best practices.
Ross concluded the meeting by calling on the group to remain engaged and be opportunistic as ideas emerge. The State Department will consider the ideas presented and encourage further exploration. CCLP will continue to act as a convening agent to keep the group and other individuals connected in order to collaborate on these and other issues.