Use of New Technologies for Consistent and Proactive Screening of Vulnerable Populations

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    United Nations University
    Use of New Technologies for Consistent and Proactive Screening of Vulnerable Populations
    by Hannah Thinyane, Francisca Sassetti, Don Rodney Junio, Michael Gallo and Silvia Mera

    Forced labour and human trafficking are global, complex, and dynamic issues affecting millions of individuals. Addressing this problem has been identified as a key target of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (Target 5.2, 8.7, 16.2). Latest figures put the number of victims of human trafficking at 24.9 million [1]. However, because of the hidden nature and often opaque infrastructure that underpins forced labour and human trafficking activities, existing estimates tend to mask and underreport the extent of the problem. Identifying victims of forced labour and human trafficking and accounting for instances and prevalence of the problem are some of the bottlenecks where much work is needed. In this regard, a first step in addressing this problem is to build robust data regimes that can provide an empirical base from which policy makers can derive actionable insights.

    The decreasing cost of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) and
    increasing mainstreaming of new technologies have resulted in wider application of digital tools to address global problems such as human trafficking and forced labour. There is currently a high level of interest from within the donor community, businesses, governments, and international organisations in using new technologies such as artificial intelligence, block chain, and machine learning to address development challenges and improve the collection of data. This has resulted in a variety of test
    cases and proof of concepts showing how new technologies can be used to address different social problems. When purposefully configured and informed by inclusive design principles, new technologies can play an important role in supporting key stakeholders to begin to address these problems.

    This report specifically focuses on the use of new technologies in identifying potential victims of forced labour and human trafficking and uncovering patterns of exploitation. Section 1 of this report begins by providing an overview of the current migration landscape and the different legal and regulatory regimes that inform safe and orderly migration at the global level. Looking specifically at victim identification, this section then examines the different ways new technologies can help identify victims and collect data
    about human trafficking. Sections 2 to 4 draw from our field work in Thailand chronicling the development and deployment of Apprise – an expert system for consistent and proactive screening of vulnerable populations. Lessons from the field are then captured in section 5 of the report, while section 6 provides an overview and a cautionary tale of how new technologies can be employed to address social issues. Finally, Section 7 provides recommendations for different stakeholders including
    governments, policymakers, businesses, researchers, and advocacy groups in deploying
    new technologies aimed at screening vulnerable populations.

    Read the full report here.