Microsoft-powered crowdfunding portal to aid human trafficking victims

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Source: Digital News Asia

  • Public can support cause, victims assured of protection and privacy
  • ‘6Degree is about connecting individual users with individual human stories’

 

MICROSOFT Corp and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) have announced the launch of 6Degree.org, a crowdfunding portal that would enable the public to directly support the voluntary return and sustainable reintegration of individual human trafficking victims.

Backed by the Microsoft Azure cloud-computing platform, 6Degree was developed by IOM’s human trafficking awareness campaign, IOM X, which is carried out with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and working in collaboration with independent software vendor AvePoint, Microsoft said in a statement.

According to UN estimates, 20.9 million men, women and children are victims of human trafficking and exploitation worldwide.

“The growing operational challenges of migration management demand out-of-the-box thinking on how best they can be tackled,” said Stefan Sjöström, vice president for Public Sector, Microsoft Asia.

“The use of technology shows enormous potential in this respect,” he added.

As the leading inter-governmental organisation in the field of migration, with 157 member states and 480 field locations around the world, IOM has provided more than 70,000 survivors of human trafficking with humanitarian, medical, legal and migration support since 1997.

On average, IOM helps 6,000 to 7,000 individual trafficking survivors every year, Microsoft said.

IOM has the human resources, processes and facilities to help these victims. With additional funding, the cost of shelter, medical and legal assistance, repatriation, and education or skills development to prevent re-trafficking can be covered to meet demand.

“6Degree is the first time we have been able to provide individual donors with direct access to supporting a proven and time-tested mechanism for helping individual survivors of trafficking,” said Andrew Bruce, regional director, IOM Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

“I am excited by the possibilities this technology opens up for organisations such as IOM, and the opportunity to give more victims of human trafficking a second chance at life,” he added.

Privacy and protection

6Degree is the first crowdfunding portal that meets the strict requirements of IOM’s victim protection and privacy standards, Microsoft said.

Because a survivor’s anonymity is their most important form of protection, 6Degree does not use photographs of faces and modifies information that could compromise their safety or chances of a normal life.

Each survivor’s story is told through interactive story maps, which strike a balance between protecting the victim’s identity, and telling a compelling story to potential funders.

 

The interactive map, built on top of Microsoft’s Bing Maps, allows users to follow the journey of each former victim, with significant milestones illustrated by clickable icons.

When clicked, the user is presented with a narrative elaborating on the survivor’s experience at that point in their journey.

By following the stories icon by icon, the user can understand the circumstances that led to the person being trafficked, appreciate the challenges faced during exploitation, learn how they reclaimed their freedom and discover what their dreams and ambitions are for the future.

“6Degree is about connecting individual users with individual human stories,” said Tara Dermott, IOM X programme leader.

“Parallel to the funding aspect, these stories will help develop awareness, build understanding and nurture commitment towards stopping human trafficking through the many actions of a united collective,” she added.

Determining the specific amount of funding required for each victim’s voluntary return is the responsibility of IOM case officers who work on the ground.

With the consent and active participation of each survivor, the IOM case officer conducts an individual needs assessment to see how they can best ensure the safety of individual beneficiaries, while helping them progress towards social and economic self-sufficiency.

 

6Degree is the result of a strong public-private partnership between Microsoft and IOM. The development of the portal was led by IOM X, which is IOM’s new campaign to encourage safe migration and public action to stop exploitation and human trafficking, produced in partnership with USAID (click infographic below to enlarge).

– 24 June 2015