IBM, the United Nations, anti-trafficking campaigners, and university students in Colombia are gearing up for the country’s first-ever ‘hackathon’ to develop an app to combat human trafficking.
The event is slated for August 31, and will bring together young computer programmers, engineers, and designers to create a prototype mobile app or website.
“It’s a race against the clock for 32 hours,” said Jesus David Tabares, corporate citizenship leader for Colombia and Venezuela at IBM.
“We want to inspire creativity and include other people who don’t know, and others who work in the human trafficking field.”
Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:
Participants will develop their apps using IBM software databases and technology, including artificial intelligence software for voice and facial recognition.
Digital technology – in particular encrypted instant messaging services like WhatsApp that allow users to remain anonymous – is increasingly used by traffickers to trap victims.
“We have to face technology with technology and use new tools, which this hackathon aims to develop,” said Sebastian Arevalo, head of the Pasos Libres Foundation, a Colombian anti-trafficking group that is supporting the event.
The app should help identify victims of sex trafficking, improve coordination between authorities when possible victims are spotted at airports and bus terminals, or help prevent the online distribution of child sexual abuse material.
Julian Arenas, a computing engineering student at Bogota’s Los Andes University, said he knew little about human trafficking but hoped to join the event to “innovate for a social cause.”
Walk Free Foundation estimates that there are around 131,000 trafficking victims in Colombia. Across Latin America, the most common type of trafficking is for sexual exploitation of women and girls.
Winners of the hackathon will be awarded a contract with the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime in Colombia (UNODC), which is co-sponsoring the event, to further develop their app for use in Colombia.
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