My career has mostly been in the private sector. I spent about 15 years working as a technologist on IT systems and services for large government departments and for-profit companies. I spent another few years as a strategic technology advisor for CxOs in big FTSE100 companies. I found it fascinating because information technology threads its way throughout organisations. As a career technologist you must quickly understand the mechanics of how a business functions because technology enables most of their important processes.
Technology has also become the cornerstone of many new business models over the last few decades. Technology such as cloud services and mobile devices are tools that have enabled businesses to scale quickly, utilising clever network effects and incentive structures. Why is this relevant? Well, the world of slavery and human trafficking uses many of the same business techniques. Trafficking is formed around supply and demand. Traffickers confront logistical challenges; they use clever marketing techniques; they know the finance models that make trafficking profitable. Criminals are experts in sourcing their “product”, reacting to risk, and meeting client demands. It’s an industry. After a career spent trying to grow industries, it’s been a jolt to suddenly start developing strategies to tear one down. Although technology will never be a silver bullet in the fight against slavery, I believe it has so far been an under-utilised weapon in our fight.
Over the last few years I’ve worked pro-bono with amazing organisations and collaborations in local, national and international contexts - mainly in Asia and Europe. This has provided me with a better understanding of the issue, although it has also made me realise how little I understand. Modern slavery is deceptive. It’s a complex problem. My recent passion to fight human trafficking stems from enragement at the human tragedy as well as a deep frustration that our collective response has generally been poor. My background has mostly centred on strategy and technology, so there will sometimes be a focus on this within the articles. But over the last few years my experiences have forced me to grapple with new feelings of fury and empathy at the human cost of slavery. Generally, technology tends not to be compassionate in its nature. But I’ve realised that the success of new technologies and approaches that could tackle the problem at scale will be as dependent upon inventors’ human skills of empathy and understanding, as much as their technical excellence.
In these articles I will reinforce what I think we are doing well and also openly challenge what I think needs to change. I will write about new ideas I’ve had (some of which are probably correctly categorised as “moonshots”). I will also write hints and tips for organisations looking to utilise technology to disrupt trafficking.
As a reminder, these articles will be my personal thoughts and do not represent any organisation I work with.