Coming Up: Garage48 Trafficking in Persons hackathon

From September 18-20, Garage48 and the U.S. Department of State invite technologists, law enforcement, NGOs and others to join the fight against human trafficking. During the 48-hour hackathon, participants will develop possible technological solutions —from applications to services —that will help eradicate the scourge of modern slavery.


Human trafficking is the third largest international crime industry in the world. “Trafficking in persons,” “human trafficking,” and “modern slavery” are all umbrella terms for the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. The crime has many faces, with victims suffering from sex or child sex trafficking, forced labor, bonded labor or debt bondage, domestic servitude, forced child labor, or the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers.  

Technology can play a key role in ending human trafficking by stimulating innovative ways to assist victims of trafficking, to disrupt the human supply chain, or to harness technology to help authorities put a stop to the criminal organizations that prey on millions across the globe. 

The U.S. Ambassador to Estonia Jeffrey D. Levine has big hopes for the innovations developed at the hackathon. “Trafficking-in-persons is a critical issue that requires the collaboration of government, civil society and individuals. This hackathon will create real-world solutions to help stem the flow of trafficking, assist its victims, and raise awareness of the problem.” He added, “We are grateful to all participants for contributing their talents to this effort, and the U.S. Department of State is thrilled to partner on this exciting initiative with Garage48, which has a proven record of bringing together people able to turn ideas into action.” 

In industries where fierce competition leads to constant downward pressure on prices, some employers respond by taking cost-cutting measures to survive commercially, from reducing wages or ignoring safety protocols, to holding workers in compelled service through debt bondage or the retention of identity documents. 

Practices that lead to human trafficking often occur in the recruitment process before employment begins, whether through misrepresentation of contract terms, the imposition of recruitment fees, the confiscation of identity documents, or a combination of these. The involvement of intermediaries creates additional layers in the supply chain and positions these individuals to either assist or exploit. 

When large populations of workers migrate for employment, especially to isolated locations, such as mining, logging, and agricultural camps, the incidence of sex trafficking in those areas may increase. Any discovery of raw materials will necessarily lead to a large influx of workers and other individuals, some of whom will create a demand for the commercial sex industry.

Not surprisingly, armed groups, violent extremists, and militias fuel conflicts that devastate communities and weaken social and governmental structures, leaving adults and children defenseless and vulnerable. The use of modern slavery as a tactic in the armed conflicts in Iraq and Syria is particularly alarming. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), as well as other armed groups and militias, continue to intimidate populations and devastate communities through violence, fear and oppression. 

The eleven sectors that were found to be the most likely to have a risk of human trafficking globally:

  1. Agriculture
  2. Construction
  3. Electronics
  4. Fishing and Aquaculture
  5. Forestry
  6. Healthcare
  7. Hospitality
  8. Housekeeping/ Facilities Operations
  9. Mining and Basic Metal Production
  10. Textile and Apparel Manufacturing
  11. Transportation and Warehousing


Jane Muts, Garage48’s coordinator of the hackathon, wants participants to feel inspired and accomplished because of their contributions to a global problem. “Even though you do not read about human trafficking in the news every day, it does not mean it does not exist or that it could not happen to you or someone close to you,” emphasized Muts on the dangers of the problem.

The hackathon will begin on 18 September to 20 September at the Baltic Film and Media School in Tallinn. Registration is now open for developers, designers, project managers, marketers, experts who deal with problem on a day-to-day basis and others who want to help fight this global problem. 

To join the development of the innovative solutions to tackle human trafficking, register for the Garage48 hackathon here at: http://garage48.org/events/trafficking-in-persons