In this episode of LØRN, Silvija talks to Advisor in Tankesmien Skaperkraft, Catharina Drejer, about blockchain and slavery in the digital age and how it takes place. Slavery, human trafficking, human rights, poverty, international work, and technology are central themes in her work. Drejer has written the book #Slavetech - a snapshot of slavery in a digital age together with Professor Kevin Bales. She has previously researched human trafficking for The Netherlands Institute of Human Rights and worked on European research on children and crime.
Who are you and how did you become interested in technology?
My name is Catharina Drejer and I am an advisor for the think tank Skaperkraft. I focus mostly on the issue of slavery and what modern technology does to enslave people, as well as how it is used to free people.
What is your most important role at work?
The most important aspect of my role it to take a critical look at both sides of technology. As Melvin Kranzberg says, technology is neither good nor bad, but it is not neutral either.
What are you focusing on within your sub-branch?
I have focussed a lot on blockchain technology to see what it has to offer in relation to combatting slavery (digital ID, tracing supply chains, birth registration, etc.).
What do you think are the most interesting controversies?
That many NGOs are now turning to technology to solve problems, despite many of them having minimal experience in that area. This is important because some of the technology being developed is not useful. Collaborations are essential to close language gaps between sectors and develop good and sustainable technology.
What is your own favourite example of this technology?
My book on the pros and cons of technology in relation to slavery. It looks at how technologies like WhatsApp, Snapchat and Skype are being used to enslave and traffic people. But it also shows how such apps can and are being used to give slavery survivors a voice.
What do you think needs to be considered for the future?
To take into account that when technology touches people’s lives, especially vulnerable groups like those enslaved or freed, we must think long term (data storage, privacy, long term effects). Which is all about ethics!
Is there anything we do well in this field here in Norway?
I think that Norway is great at innovating, especially around police work and criminal investigations. There are some great examples of new digital tools being used to fight crimes like slavery and human trafficking.
What do you think is the most important takeaway from our conversation?
Technology is no silver bullet. New technologies such as blockchain, machine learning and big data mining have great potential for fighting human rights abuses such as slavery. But we must not forget that we are dealing with real, vulnerable people. Good intentions are great but won’t get us far in developing solid technology that truly solves problems.
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Spørsmål:Slavery feeds off the digital age. Share your brief thoughts on how to curb it.
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