Satellites used to locate modern slavery

At a conference in New York run by United Nations University, computer scientists, slavery experts and policy strategists banned together to investigate how their industries could work together in the fight against modern slavery. They discussed the potential for satellite date to identify areas with high probability of modern slavery.

Doreen Boyd, director of the data program at the Rights Lab at the University of Nottingham estimated that “one-third of all slavery is visible from space, whether in the scars of kilns or illegal mines or the outlines of transient fish processing camps”.

Boyd is also using artificial intelligence to identify high risk areas, particularly the distinctive shape of brick kilns, an industry with a strong history of modern slavery. The data will also allow researchers to identify if a field has been harvested by machine or by hand and the rate at which this happened.

Although the data that comes from using satellites to identify modern slavery will not provide a simple, black and white solution to modern slavery, it does provide key information to ground organisations, assisting them to better identify high risk areas that may have slipped through the cracks.

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Sonja Duncan