Canadian government funds nation-wide tech competition to fight human trafficking with IBM and partners

The competition is open to anyone living in Canada over the age of 18 and accessible in English and French

Today, the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), IBM, Colombian not-for-profit Fundación Pasos Libres and the Montreal-based International Centre for the Prevention of Crime (ICPC) launched DataJam Against Exploitation, an innovation competition to identify and combat human trafficking in Canada. 

The project is funded by the Government of Canada and will take place over an 11-day period, from May 7 to May 17, and is open to anyone residing in Canada over the age of 18. It’s accessible in English and French languages.

The competition is open to anyone residing in Canada over the age of 18, with knowledge of technological solutions, data analysis, design, marketing, business, human trafficking, human rights, crime prevention, justice and victim-care-related areas. Interested students and other professionals can register as of April 1 by visiting

Martin Hemmi, associate criminal justice officer for the UNODC Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Section, says traffickers use integrated technology at every stage of their business to recruit and exploit victims.

“Technology can be misused by traffickers to launder or transfer illicit profits. It can also have a positive use in helping to combat trafficking, such as by aiding investigations, enhancing prosecutions, raising awareness, and providing services to victims”, Hemmi said in an April 1 news release. “Tapping into the potential and talent of young people on a matter that affects them is absolutely essential. We need all the tools possible to fight this crime and need to ensure that the voices of young people are heard and taken into account”.

Competition participants, working in teams of 4 or 5, will use public data and training from national and international experts to design tech-based solutions that will contribute to solving specific human trafficking dynamics in Canada.

IBM volunteers will help mentor and coach participants on the use of technology and assist in bringing the most promising ideas to life.

According to the UNODC, there were just under 1,400 victims of human trafficking reported by police in Canada between 2009 and 2018. Of these victims, 97 per cent were women and young girls.

Sebastián Arévalo, CEO of Fundación Pasos Libres, says one of the competition’s goals is to encourage young people to “lead impact actions” in the anti-trafficking field.

“Educating young people within alternative learning scenarios such as the DataJam Against Exploitation emerges as an opportunity to form a generation of citizens with the knowledge, skills and power to disrupt human trafficking,” Arévalo said in the release.

“IBM employees have a tradition of sharing their expertise with the community, particularly students, on a range of humanitarian issues,” added Jennifer Roynon, IBM Canada corporate social responsibility lead. “That’s why they are eager to support the upcoming DataJam, and help find new ways to address human trafficking more effectively.”

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Pragya Sehgal
Pragya Sehgal
Born and raised in the capital city of India - Delhi - bounded by the river Yamuna on the west, Pragya has climbed the Himalayas, and survived medical professional stream in high school without becoming a patient or a doctor. Pragya now makes her home in Canada with her husband - a digital/online marketing fanatic who also loves to prepare delicious meals for her. When she isn’t working or writing around tech, she’s probably watching art films on Netflix, or wondering whether she should cut her hair short or not. Can be contacted at [email protected] or 647.695.3494.

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