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How Big Data is Fighting Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is the third largest crime industry in the world today. India has an estimated 18.3 million slaves, according to the Global Slavery Index, and every year 200,000 Indian children are tricked, kidnapped, or coerced into slavery.


Every three minutes, a girl is sold into slavery. The average age of these girls is 12 years old, with children as young as six trafficked for sexual exploitation, and less than one percent of them are ever rescued. Public awareness is the most effective barrier to human trafficking, and MapR is proud to be part of the big data analytics solution, developed by Quantium for My Choices Foundation, to help alleviate one of the world’s worst social problems.

While many organizations work to rescue girls and prosecute the traffickers, Operation Red Alert, a program of My Choices Foundation, is a prevention program designed to help parents, teachers, village leaders, and children understand how the traffickers work, so they can block their efforts. Poor village girls are typically targeted, with promises that the girls are being offered wonderful opportunities for an education, jobs, or marriage. But with over 600,000 villages in India, Operation Red Alert needed help to determine which areas were most at risk to prioritize their education efforts.

Watch the video ‘Red Alert Saves Lives’

As a pro bono project, the Australian analytics firm Quantium developed a big data solution, which runs on Cisco UCS infrastructure and uses the MapR Converged Data Platform. The solution analyzes India’s census data, government education data, and other sources for factors such as drought, poverty level, proximity to transportation stations, educational opportunities, population, and distance to police stations, so as to identify the villages and towns that are most at risk of human trafficking.

Elca Grobler, the founder of My Choices Foundation, explains the significance of this work: “The general Indian public is still largely unaware that trafficking exists, and most parents have no idea that their children are actually being sold into slavery. That’s why grassroots awareness and education at the village level is so important to ending the human traffic trade.”

Operation Red Alert

With a vision to end sex trafficking in India by preventing girls from ever entering it, Operation Red Alert began its efforts in 2014 by conducting research on root causes and by building relationships with long-standing non-government organizations (NGOs) in the field. Working with Quantium, they analyzed data while constantly refining and iterating to define a model that could identify villages most at risk. Red Alert now has 40 NGO partners, who have helped conduct the Safe Village education program in 600 villages throughout four states in India, reaching over 600,000 villagers. Red Alert also created India’s first national anti-trafficking helpline and is conducting mass media awareness campaigns.

As Grobler explains, “We are helping to banish human trafficking, one village at a time, through a combination of highly sophisticated technology and grassroots Safe Village education implemented through our NGO partners. The national helpline gives villagers a link to continual support, and with 95 million mobile phones in India that gives us a very broad reach. We’re also adding data and refining our predictive analytics, and we’re expanding our education efforts to cover more states this year.”

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