The International Organization for Migration and Microsoft join hands to combat human trafficking by engaging Internet users in an online donation programme.

BANGKOK: The International Organization for Migration and Microsoft jointly launched on Tuesday (June 23) a new website that allows Internet users to get involved in the fight against human trafficking.

With an estimated 29 million people around the world live in slavery, the United Nations believes the human trafficking industry is worth 32 billion dollars every year.

In response to this growing international criminal business, the International Organization of Migration (IOM) and technology giant Microsoft jointly released an online crowd-sourcing portal called 6Degrees, which allows Internet users to donate money to victims of human trafficking.

With 6Degrees, the developers can gather financial donations from the online community and distribute them according to the preferences of each donor.

According to the IOM, people smugglers are already adept at using Information and Communications Technology to approach their potential victims, while governments and non-government groups have just started to play catch-up.

“The information technology is just being used to scale up what traffickers do in a normal way anyway. It just allows them to access so many more people,” said Jonathan Martens, IOM’s Senior Regional Migrant Assistance Specialist.

This joint initiative is aimed at combining technology and the Internet to engage the global community, by sharing the stories of survivors of trafficking to generate help.

“By the same token, this is what we’re trying to do with information technology. Rather than restrict ourselves to the limited number of people, we’re able to assist. Currently, we’re hoping to upscale and deliver more assistance to more people, more effectively,” he added.

However, technology is not a cure-all for the issue of human trafficking. Issues such as access to those technologies in rural areas and language barriers related to software are a particular worry in South East Asia.

Besides, there is also worry that local governments and authorities are not prepared to apply these new technologies.

According to the website’s developers, it is important to make sure existing technology is used efficiently, rather than race to produce the most sophisticated technologies.

“It’s less about just building products and capabilities. It’s making sure that every individual as well as organisation across that ecosystem – from the law enforcement to the IGOs and NGOs, even to those consumers and the average citizen – that they know how to use the technology,” said Toni Townes-Whitley, Corporate Vice-President of Microsoft’s Worldwide Public Sector.

In the long term, transnational agencies and developers want to use technology to end human trafficking, and it is through initiatives like 6Degrees that they aim to help the survivors of human trafficking by exposing the stories and the criminals who have preyed on them.

– CNA/pp