NGOs Learn Digital Ways to Combat Trafficking

Technology entrepreneurs on Wednesday showed local NGOs the latest dig­ital developments in combating human trafficking as part of Cambodia’s second TechCamp—a worldwide program run by the U.S. State Department to promote emerging technologies to help solve societal problems.

Among the more than a dozen technological advances detailed were an app that blurs people’s faces when their picture is taken; regional hotlines for trafficking victims; and an online, interactive database to connect similar NGOs worldwide.

“Cambodia is one of the epicenters for human trafficking in Asia. It’s important we provide these ideas so the NGOs can adapt the technological solutions to real-life concepts,” said Tim Amstutz, Asia regional director for World Relief, one of TechCamp’s four sponsors.

At the first day of the two-day camp Wednesday, more than 150 people gathered at the Cambodia-Korea Culture Center on the Royal University of Phnom Penh campus to hear about the technological advances in place or underway.

“You take a photo [on a smartphone], it detects faces and then blurs them,” said Bryan Nunez of the Guardian Project about his group’s ObscuraCam invention. The Guardian Project is a U.S.-based organization comprised of researchers that develop tools to protect the privacy and data of at-risk individuals.

Mr. Nunez said ObscuraCam helps protect a person’s privacy. “It helps blur the identification of victims of human trafficking,” he said.

Another organization, Hong Kong-based Liberty Asia, which provides “new solutions” to help fight slavery, has a plan to develop regional phone hotlines in Southeast Asia for trafficking victims.

“If you’re in Malaysia and you’re Cambodian, what do you do? We will be a lifeline for people in trouble in displaced countries,” Matt Friedman, technology adviser for Liberty Asia, said, adding that Internet giant Google is funding the project.

Mr. Friedman said a hotline for Hong Kong, China and Vietnam will launch by the end of the year, and one for Cambodia, Laos, Burma and Malaysia will launch next year.

Locally, the Chab Dai NGO, which helps combat sexual abuse and human trafficking, plans to launch an online database later this year to connect similar NGOs worldwide. The database, known as “The Freedom Registry,” allows users to scan an interactive map and use filters to find similar organizations.

“We’re taking lessons learned here and expanding them globally in an interactive platform,” said Helen Sworn, executive director and founder of Chab Dai.

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