OYW Ambassador hosts 1st hackathon against human trafficking in US
This blog was originally written by OYW Ambassador Sebastian Arevalo Sanchez.
The Pasos Libres Foundation traveled to New Jersey from March 6 to 12 to run with IBM, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and the Stevens Institute of Technology, the first BlueHack against Human Trafficking in the United States. This important event was carried out as a result of the resounding success of the BlueHack Pasos Libres in Colombia and replicated in Brazil in 2018.
The BlueHack in New Jersey brought together 45 students who for 32 hours designed innovative technology solutions to identify and rescue victims of human trafficking; increase efficiency in the collection and management of data related to crime; and strengthen efforts to prevent trafficking in the United States. During the event, 20 IBM mentors, Pasos Libres Foundation, UNODC and the Stevens Institute of Technology provided advice on human trafficking, programming, business and marketing to the participants.
The event was also attended by special guests such as Natalae Velez and Francisco Zornosa, Deputy Prosecutors of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office; Hernani Goncalves, Retired Officer of the DEA; and Lamont Heibert, Program Director at UNITAS, who presented the main dynamics of crime in the United States as well as personal experiences investigating organized crime networks and assisting victims.
At the end of the competition, the teams presented their proposals to a distinguished and demanding jury panel that evaluated the innovative character, feasibility, and general quality of the ideas, prototypes and codes. Argo, the winning team of BlueHack, developed an interface that helps researchers analyze large amounts of data on social networks to identify publications and messages that could be indications of human trafficking. The second place was held by HTKG (Human Trafficking Knowledge Graph), who created a tool to generate "hot spots" to mark victim exploitation zones, while Victim-Centered Solutions, the team that took third place, developed "HoneyPot" application that allows victims of sexual exploitation to request help and facilitate their rescue.
In the framework of the agenda of Pasos Libres Foundation in the United States, the Cofounder and Director of the Foundation, Sebastián Arévalo Sánchez, had the opportunity to visit the Thomas J. Watson Research Center of IBM in Yorktown, to learn about the latest technological advances from IBM and explore with the company's Innovation and Corporate Citizenship team, the multiple opportunities to continue using state-of-the-art technology in solving various social problems.
This version of the BlueHack Against Trafficking in Persons, and in general, the visit of Pasos Libres to the North American country reaffirmed the immense potential of this unique partnership between IBM, Pasos Libres Foundation and UNODC to offer solutions to the problem of human trafficking through the technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. In August of 2019 this wonderful team will carry out the second version of the BlueHack Free Steps in Colombia, so if you want to participate in this unique event, this will be the opportunity.
On behalf of the Pasos Libres Foundation team, we would like to extend a cordial thank you to IBM and especially to Erin Jurgens, Sergio Borger, Jesus Tabares and Martin Laird for believing in our organization and working together with us to make our mission a reality: revolutionize the way of preventing and fighting against human trafficking.