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Can Technology Help Fight Forced Labor?

Five companies working to create technological solutions to help end labor trafficking in global supply chains have been awarded $20,000 each by a San Francisco-based foundation in collaboration with government departments and various private groups.

Last October, the Humanity United-led Partnership for Freedom launched a competition called “Rethink Supply Chains: The Tech Challenge to Fight Labor Trafficking” and on Friday the public-private alliance announced which entrants would receive grants to further develop their proposed solutions.

The chosen five were selected by a panel of judges with expertise across corporate supply chains, human rights, philanthropy and investing. They will now proceed to an accelerator round where they will receive support from subject matter experts and compete for $300,000 in remaining prizes. The winner, which will get $250,000, will be announced in April.

The five finalists are:

• Sustainability Incubator and Trace Register: online registry for voluntary reporting by industry of catches and onboard conditions for crews

• Mobile Accord, Inc.: mobile surveys that generate and provide data to companies on labor conditions in the Ghanaian fishing industry

• Good World Solutions: mobile technology that captures, analyzes and maps unfiltered worker feedback to effectively address forced labor in a new way

• IST Research: blends self-reporting and internet data to identify labor exploitation in dynamic environments

• Ulula: integrates information-sharing and remittance transfers to combat human trafficking and secure better jobs and higher incomes for migrant workers

“Forced labor in global supply chains is a systemic problem,” Catherine Chen, director of investments at Humanity United, said. “The solutions surfaced by these finalists leverage technology to combat this problem by bringing transparency to global supply chains and elevating workers’ voices across industries.”

Founded in 2012, Partnership for Freedom also comprises the Departments of Justice, State, Labor, Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development, with support by Steven Spielberg’s Righteous Persons Foundation, Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women Initiative, the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Family Fund and more.