What is TechCamp Phnom Penh?

Across the globe, people are held in involuntary servitude in factories, farms, and homes; bought and sold in prostitution; and captured to serve as child soldiers. The International Labor Organization reports the number of people subjected to human trafficking last year was 20.9 million.

This number continues to grow because widespread access to hand-held devices and online technologies gives traffickers an unprecedented ability to reach an ever growing number of potential victims. However, government, anti-trafficking advocates, civil society groups and technology experts have the ability to leverage these tools to turn the tables on the traffickers.

President Obama stated, “we’re going to harness technology to stop them … [by] encouraging tech companies and advocates and law enforcement … to develop tools that our young people can use to stay safe online and on their smart phones.” (CGI Sept. 2012).

TechCamps are a platform to harness technology to fight the battle against human trafficking.

Two day, tightly curated ideation events, TechCamps seek to co-create innovative solutions, using low-cost, easy-to-implement technology, to the key problems that civil society groups encounter in their day to day work. NGOs and other civil society groups that work in the region and intimately know the challenges, are paired with technologists, both local and international, to design on-the-spot innovative tech solutions with immediate impact. TechCamp is about the implementation of low cost, easy to implement strategies and tools that will work right now, using the tools that are available in the region today. TechCamps are not traditional conferences, hackathons, unconferences, or training camps. There are no talking heads; there are no panel discussions; only applicable case studies of how technology has worked in other regions, interactive small
group brainstorming, and concrete tech-solutions that emerge at the end of two days.

To date, the U.S. Department of State has hosted 23 TechCamps, all over the globe, training 1400 civil society groups from over 90 countries. Each event is geared toward a unique topic: Open Government, Youth Empowerment, Social Inclusion, Internet Freedom, Education, Crime and Security, Disaster Response.

Human Trafficking has yet to be tackled, and given the immediate importance of this issue, this needs to change.

TechCamps target key NGOs and marry them with digital experts in areas such mapping, mobile, voice, data collection, and social media awareness to create real time solutions.  Here are a few examples from previous camps:

  • SMS: At TechCamp Montevideo, a Guatemalan CSO worked with Frontline SMS, a mobile technology organization, to develop a mobile platform to provide leadership and e-entrepreneurship training to young Guatemalans, who were unaware that such programs exist due to poor internet access, and could only learn about such programs through their mobile phones via SMS. Could SMS be used to reach out to potential victims of Human Trafficking to encourage them to text their location and ask for help?
  • Event Mapping and Crowdsourcing: In TechCamp Bucharest, a local NGO worked with the London School of Economics and CRDF Global to create the CIVIC HELP SERVICE, an integrated disaster response system built on built on an open source Ushahidi based platform aimed at monitoring the risks within communities, informing potential helpers about real time situations, and reaching the people in need to facilitate relief. The organization uses on the ground volunteers to target individuals who do not have access to cell phones or internet. Could mapping be used to track and map the locations of perpetrators and high traffic areas with incidents of Human Trafficking incidences?
  • Social Media: At TechCamp Ramallah, which was focused on Women’s Empowerment, NGOs from
    Gaza worked with NGOs from the Palestinian Territories to set up social media groups that would allow
    quick communication and connection around advocacy issues across borders – in some cases this was
    the women’s only contact to the outside world. Could social media impact the way that groups
    mobilize and spread awareness of Human Trafficking in the region?

Other Potential Questions to be answered:

  • Can technology assist in ensuring there is no slave labor in global supply chains?
  • How can we strengthen tracking?
  • How do we best prevent human trafficking or victimization to begin with?
  • How do we overcome structural impediments, such as the inability of mobile phones to get signals in certain areas without the right infrastructure?
  • How can we connect the resources, training, and job opportunities offered by businesses with the skills of the trafficking survivors who are looking to rebuild their lives?

With TechCamp, we can tackle the most pressing local challenges and begin to create solutions. The model is unique. The first day of a TechCamp consists of fast paced project presentations, interactive training sessions, small group discussions, and brainstorming sessions; civil society participants are introduced to the technological tools, and begin the process of constructing technological solutions to social issues. On the second day, the Civil Society Organizations take the lead, share the challenges they are passionate about along with the technological tools that they are interested in. Together, they work with the technologists to come up with concrete/detailed tech-solutions and an action plan for a particular problem statement. Private sector and foundation partners help ensure that solutions developed at TechCamps are sustainable long after participants return home.

TechCamp is about empowering those who know the problems best, civil society, to come together with their peers and clearly define their greatest challenges. It is about bringing together unlikely groups, NGOs and technologists, who in many places might not otherwise ever consider working together. It is about making ideas actionable and in the case of Human Trafficking, it is about taking immediate action to provide the necessary weapons needed to fight the battle to end modern day slavery.

More details can be found here: TechCamp Global

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