Contest picks brains of technologists to fight forced labor

by Sebastien Malo | @SebastienMalo | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 1 February 2016 14:00 GMT

General view of the local fishing community in the Ghanaian town of Cape Coast July 9, 2009. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

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Global competition enourages ideas on using technology to identify enslaved workers in supply chains

NEW YORK, Feb 1 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A cell phone tool to survey working conditions of Ghanaian fishermen and a mobile system to collect forced labor data are among the finalists in a global competition to harness technology to identify enslaved workers in supply chains, organizers said on Monday.

The contest, Rethink Supply Chains, aims to send a message that efforts to make supply chains transparent and slave-free create market opportunities, said Catherine Chen, director of investments at Humanity United, a non-profit participant in the project.

Some 18.7 million people around the world are estimated to be trapped in forced labor in the private economy, generating $150 billion in annual profits, according to the International Labour Organisation.

Five finalists were selected among dozens of applicants, including software companies, regulatory-compliance consulting firms and mobile application developers, from 11 nations.

Many were already trying to develop fixes to other social and economic problems, said Chen.

"It's exciting to be able to activate those technology companies and technologists themselves and get them thinking about another social issue," she said.

The other three finalists were an online registry for reporting conditions of fishing crews at sea, a system to utilize internet reporting to uncover labor exploitation and a mobile platform to look at remittances to combat human trafficking.

The winner of the $250,000 prize offered by the Partnership for Freedom, a venture including Humanity United and the U.S. government, will be announced in April.

(Reporting by Sebastien Malo, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit

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