Utilizing Information Technology to Address Human Trafficking

By Vitalis Otieno http://frontendsupport.wordpress.com

Trafficking of human beings is one of the cruelest violations of human rights in the world today. Women and

girls in particular are vulnerable to local, national, and international forces that have a strong vested interest in the Perpetuation of rural-to-urban and cross-border human trafficking.

Because of the transnational nature of the problem, it requires a coordinated effort among nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and institutions across the region. However, there is currently very little sharing of information due to the wide distribution of NGOs addressing the problem, the difficulty of communications in remote areas, low levels of information technology (IT) capacity in anti-trafficking groups, and the hesitancy to share sensitive information over insecure channels.

Frontend support is supporting a regional program to address human trafficking in Kenya and East Africa that includes a series of IT-related initiatives to increase the level of coordination and information sharing through- out the network of anti-trafficking groups in the region.

These programs will facilitate NGO coordination and increase linkages between civil society organizations, government officials, and institutions; improve the IT capacity of anti-trafficking groups; and promote bilateral and international networking to increase pressure and generate political support to address the problem

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PROGRAMS

One of the goals of our initiative is to build linkages between isolated anti-trafficking groups across the region. Many of these groups maintain information that could be of tremendous value if shared with counterpart organizations. For example, many NGOs in rural areas will maintain a list of missing persons, especially those who are likely to be victims of trafficking. In cities that tend to be destinations of trafficking, several NGOs and authorities maintain information on victims who are currently seeking help. If the NGOs and authorities across the region (rural and urban) could share information, the victims could be put in contact with their families, and many of the cases on missing persons could be resolved.

As another example, there is no comprehensive list of anti-trafficking NGOs and relevant authorities across the region. If an NGO in Tanzania makes arrangements to return a victim to her home in Kenya, it is very difficult for them to identify local NGOs near the victim’s home that could facilitate the journey and contact the family.

Our main aim is development of a web portal on human trafficking, which will support information sharing and dissemination throughout the network of anti-trafficking groups. The portal will have both a secure intranet space for sharing sensitive information between anti-trafficking groups, as well as a public space for disseminating information.

The web portal will include the following content:

  1. Missing Persons Page — a listing of missing persons who are likely victims of trafficking,
  2. Mechanism to assist those survivors of trafficking who are seeking help.
  3. Laws and Regulations Page — an explanation of the laws and regulations in each country that pertain to Human Trafficking.
  4. Information Clearinghouse on Human Trafficking – a public web site containing reports of violence and trafficking incidents, research, survey findings, and relevant information from Southeast Asia.
  5. Listing of Anti-Trafficking Groups — a listing of the NGOs providing services to survivors (i.e. shelters, psychosocial counselors, legal aid, translators) and trusted authorities (i.e. police, prosecutors, attorneys, judges, government departments) who are working to address the problem of human trafficking, with regularly updated contact information.

This project will initially focus on Kenya Coast Province) particularly Kwale and eventually be expanded to other parts of East Africa. Based on user demands, additional content will be added over the course of the project.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING DATABASE

Lack of reliable data and access to information is a recurring obstacle for coordination of protection efforts and services to victims of trafficking. In Kenya, the relationship between the police and communities is often characterized by mutual mistrust, which hinders protection of women and children. In order for coordination and Collaboration to take place in Kenya, information needs to be accurate, easily available, and secure. It is also essential that information is made accessible for advocacy efforts on trafficking, domestic violence, and rape.

To effectively raise the profile of the issue of violence against women and trafficking of women in the public domain and to make persuasive arguments to policymakers, NGOs must provide reliable statistics about the nature and scope of the problems.

Vitalis Otieno is the Director of Front End Technologies in South Coast, Mombasa, Kenya. His organization is developing a grassroots web platform project for the grassroots organizations working against human trafficking in Kenya. His email is otieno280@gmail.com

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