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#0431: Slavery in a digital age

Gjest: Catharina Drejer

Advisor of Tankesmien Skaperkraft

Med Vert Silvija Seres

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. 

Full transcript (Available soon)

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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This is what you will learn:

Human Rights
Dark web

Today, it is estimated that there are more than 40 million slaves. To fight modern slavery, we must change the way we look at slavery today. As long as our understanding of slavery lies in the past, we cannot see the terrible crimes that can happen right in front of our eyes. Today, much of this is happening in "Cyberspace", a shady digital world that lies outside our laws and human rights conventions.

- Catharina Drejer

Recommended literature:

This is Tankesmien Skaperkraft

Tankesmien Skaperkraft was founded in Oslo on April 29th, 2011 by 70 individuals affiliated to most Christian denominations in Norway. These founders have their daily occupation within most sectors of society, including the academic, political, business, health and educational sectors. Skaperkraft is to stimulate reflection, debate and engage people to actively and positively participate in the building of society. Skaperkraft is based on the thinking that each individual human being has infinite value and on our common responsibility for the development of sustainable and inclusive communities in our European societies.