Join Pasos Libres and IBM as We Curb Human Trafficking Together

By Sebastián Arévalo Sánchez
Aug 13, 2020 10:30 AM ET

Pasos Libres and IBM will run the third DataJam Pasos Libres from August 29th to September 4th to fight human trafficking.  Check it out, here.


July 30 is “World Day Against Trafficking in Persons,” and it’s as good a time as any to remind ourselves that technology holds great promise in helping to reduce human trafficking — sometimes called slave labor. To help technology, such as data analysis, realize its full potential as a crime-fighting tool, we also need the help of those involved in Web design, marketing, business, finance, human rights, crime prevention, justice, and social services. We’re going to do exactly that in August, when we bring together a diverse group of people to brainstorm ways to address slave labor.

But more about that in a moment. First, a little background:

Human trafficking is one of the fastest-growing crimes worldwide. The World Labor Organization estimates that this criminal activity generates $150 billion dollars annually in profits, and that 40.3 million people have been victims of different forms of human trafficking. This phenomenon is one of the most severe human rights violations today, and its solution requires the cooperation of the public, private and not-for-profit sectors.

Although efforts to combat human trafficking have progressed gradually, significant barriers remain to be overcome. Some lingering challenges include lack of information and the complexity in extracting value from data; the difficulty for disparate organizations to collaborate; and the problem of transforming knowledge about human trafficking into tangible, practical solutions. Aimed to help overcome these hurdles, Pasos Libres and IBM created the DataJam Pasos Libres in 2018.  And we’re hosting another at the end of August.

Think of it as friendly competition seeking data-driven solutions to identify human trafficking patterns, networks and hotspots. The initiative, which taps IBM technologies and mentorship, unites changemakers interested in using technology and data to solve complex problems. It also shares knowledge among the next generation of citizens from different industries and sectors. Armed with new insights, they can better combat human trafficking.

Prior competitions in Colombia have involved 200 participants and industry experts. It has enabled the development of six winning solutions and 34 concepts and prototypes, including predictive models, Natural Language Understanding tools, dashboards and apps. The success and recognition of DataJam have been such that Pasos Libres has shared the DataJam Pasos Libres experience in four continents with governments, companies, civil society, international cooperation organizations — and even the Dalai Lama.

This year, Pasos Libres and IBM will run the third version of the DataJam Pasos Libres from August 29th to September 4th. It will be held online, globally and multilingual for the first time, bringing together young innovators and experts from countries like Colombia, Peru, Costa Rica, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. The DataJam partners include The Future Society, Western Union, Platzi, STOP THE TRAFFIK, Movistar, the MIT Task Force on Computational Law for Combating Modern Slavery, One Young World, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The initiative includes a post-event phase in which an IBM Service Corps team will engage on with Pasos Libres to promote the development of the proposed solutions into the Traffik Analysis Hub, a powerful, AI-based tech resource for the counter-trafficking field. Tools like this, and events like the DataJam, can truly grow a global, open innovation community against human trafficking and a way to use technology as a force for good.

How You Can Get Involved

If this sounds like something you or someone you know would like to be a part of it, then check it out, here.  The open call for potential participants ends on August 21st. We’re expecting people from all disciplines to express interest — from university students to seasoned professionals from all around the world, all passionate about using technology and data to protect and promote human rights. During the event, participants will have access to specialized talks, workshops, mentorships, and exclusive training material on human trafficking and data, both in English and Spanish.

Interested participants must form a multidisciplinary team of four to five participants; each team must have at least one techie, like a data scientist, programmer or developer. The DataJam Pasos Libres’ organizers will accept 150 participants — between 30 and 37 teams. The teams selected to participate will be announced on Sunday, August 23.

Maybe it’ll be you or someone you know!

About the author: Sebastián Arévalo Sánchez is Co-founder and CEO of Pasos Libres, an organization that seeks to revolutionize the way to prevent and disrupt human trafficking. Sebastián is a One Young World Ambassador and Fellow of the United States Institute of Peace. He was recognized as one of the Top 100 Latin Americans who inspire a better future by Avianca and is a Master Student of Social Responsibility and Sustainability at Universidad Externado de Colombia.