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Breaking the Human Trafficking Cycle with Mobile Technology

06 Aug 2018Technology

by June Sugiyama, Director, Vodafone Americas Foundation

The shocking truth – 46 million people around the world are victims of human trafficking today, the largest number ever in history. This US$150 billion industry is a modern-day form of slavery, encompassing labor and sex trafficking and disproportionately affects women and girls in poorer communities in the developing world. The problem is growing – in 2016 alone, the number of people who were enslaved increased by 14 million, due to factors including the widening wealth gap, limited economic opportunities and natural disasters. In the face of this increasing problem, how can we eliminate these human rights violations, empower survivors, and create new opportunities? The answer may lie in mobile-based technology.

Since 2009, Nomi Network, a non-profit development agency, has fought back against human trafficking in India and Cambodia. Nomi Network works with rescue agencies and shelters to provide training for survivors of human trafficking and women at risk so that they are prepared to entry into the workforce. The training ranges from technical skills that can help women find job opportunities, to basic life and social skills that allow them to open bank accounts and build communities. This type of training is critical –poverty, illiteracy and lack of proper education are major drivers of the human trafficking problem as it’s challenging for survivors to find job opportunities with little or no formal education resources.

Nomi Network’s programme is already incredibly effective, providing training for over 3,500 women in just the last year, many of whom go on to find work or start their own businesses. Now, with the support of the Vodafone Americas Foundation, they are scaling their work significantly with the introduction of a mobile-based training programme set to be released in early 2019. Using augmented reality and e-learning techniques, including audio and visually-based lessons on, for example, simple skills to measure, cut and lay patterns. The technology will teach women the job, life and leadership skills that have proven effective thus far, but this time, entirely via mobile and web. Nomi already has a network of professional designers and producers that are working with them and are ready to lend a hand in the development of the app.

Mobile provides the perfect platform for Nomi Network’s curriculum. According to a Pew Research Center report, two-third of adults worldwide report having access to the internet. By tapping into mobile, Nomi Network will be able to reach millions of women via ubiquitous, easy-to-use technology. And, because the platform will be free for users, Nomi has the potential to reach millions of people in need who may not otherwise have access to this type of training programme. The technology will also lessen the need for in-person trainers, which can restrict the ability to scale the programme, and allow women to complete the lessons at their own pace.

By implementing mobile into their training programmes, Nomi Network is using technology to drive social change in the communities that need it most. With proper training, millions of women around the world will have the opportunity to secure their first job or re-enter the workforce, helping to end the cycle of human trafficking worldwide.

The Vodafone Americas Foundation is committed to helping close the gender gap by empowering women and girls with greater economic opportunity.

June Sugiyama has been Director of the Vodafone Americas Foundation for over 10 years. She has led the Vodafone Americas Foundation’s transition towards impact through technology related programs and developed the Vodafone Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation Project.


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