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The role of digital technology in tackling modern slavery (WP1546)

There are more slaves today than at any other time in history- estimated at over 45 million globally, with 13,000 in the UK, at any one time. No country is unaffected and slavery is escalating, generating an estimated $150 billion in illegal profits per year. Despite legislation and increasing public awareness, the crime remains largely hidden, complex to combat and driven by organised crime for high profit, with low risk.

Perpetrators of modern slavery may deploy information and communications technologies to exploit people. This may include online grooming, control of victims through mobile phones or webcam surveillance, or the network dissemination of illegal materials resulting from sexual exploitation.

On the other hand, digital technology could be a powerful tool in combating modern slavery, providing opportunities to identify and prevent crimes, and support victims. It could play a significant role in addressing data gaps, particularly in the context of law enforcement and services for victims. It could also improve data visibility and increase the efficiency of data flows, leading to more effective use of resources and co-ordination between business, government and civil society.

This off the record meeting brought together up to 60 key stakeholders from selected source, transit and destination countries, including policy makers, law enforcement, business, civil society, and other experts for an expert exchange on creative uses of ICT in tackling modern slavery. Using the ‘5P’ framework of pursue, prevent, protect, prepare and partnership, the meeting aimed to:

  • increase understanding of how and where ICT is currently being used to facilitate and enable the crime of slavery
  • consider positive ways in which digital technology can be used to tackle the crime and support victims
  • explore prospects and modalities for greater multi-stakeholder collaboration across the relevant sectors
  • identify tangible steps towards the next stage of cross-sector coordination


Craig Melson, Programme Manager at TechUK blogs about the event


United Nations University – Computing and Society

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