UK’s Princess Eugenie of York and US Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons John Richmond have called for the use of smart technology and blockchain in curbing modern slavery and human trafficking.
They were in attendance at the 19th Alliance against Trafficking in Persons conference in Vienna, Austria. Held by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on April 8, the conference focused on how technology can be employed to deter the criminal operations of traffickers in the virtual space, and disrupt the human trafficking marketplace by carrying out “innovative, targeted and large-scale interventions”, said OSCE.
It added that the advent of the Internet, social media, and other modern technology has transformed the face of trafficking, putting more people at risk than before. Yet, it is also technology that can be better used to fight back against an illicit industry which Reuters says controls 40 million people generating annual profits of $150 billion.
“Technology can and should be our vanguard in combating trafficking,” said Princess Eugenie, who founded The Anti-Slavery Collective in Britain in 2017.
“I have learned about how blockchain is having a huge impact on supply chain management, and how an app in Britain can help the public report modern slavery at car washes.”
The UK royal was referring to a secure employee registry set up by Coca Cola and the US Department of State, and the Safe Car Wash smartphone app respectively. The former utilizes blockchain to validate and secure registered workers and their contracts, while Safe Car Wash last year helped to report 930 possible cases of modern slavery at car washes in the UK in five months.
But some experts recognized that technology in general is not a fool-proof solution either. Other factors are also in play, such as difficulties in gathering sufficient legal evidence against traffickers, and loopholes in legislation.
Richmond said, “There is no fast-forward button, no magic tech wand that we can wave to make everything better. There is not an algorithm or app that is going to stop human trafficking. But there are tech tools that can help people to do their job better. This is the slow, grinding, day-in, day-out work that can help make a difference.”