Giving a Voice to Hidden Populations – Measuring and Combatting Modern Slavery With Data-Driven Solutions

12 October, 2020

Focus: Slavery has existed in different forms since ancient times. Although, you may be surprised to find out that there are more slaves today than ever before in human history. With an estimate of 40.3 million, the number of slaves today is larger than the population of many countries, with 1 in 4 slaves being a child. Despite being outlawed in most countries, the crime persists today in ways more pervasive and complex than ever. Modern slavery is relevant to SDG Target 8.7, which calls for effective measures to end forced labour, modern slavery, and human trafficking, as well as child labour in all its forms. Through a partnership between The International Labour Organization (ILO) Walk Free and International Organization for Migration (IOM), it has become possible to gain the global estimate of modern slavery. While multiple organisations work to combat modern slavery, progress towards ending this phenomenon has been limited and effective solutions remain elusive. This is compounded by the fact that causes and determinants are varied and complex, and victims are often hidden, fearful and hard to identify. In this light, modern data-driven tools would allow for better coordination and cooperation between key actors and stakeholders, thereby facilitating a deeper understanding of drivers and triggers of this phenomenon, better identification of hotspots in supply chains and more targeted solutions for delivering support services.

Objectives and Scope: This session aimed to report on recent developments and innovations in the estimation of the scale of modern slavery and highlight technological advances and tools that can be used to develop effective solutions in tackling modern slavery. In this session, participants learned about state-of-the-art methodologies used to measure modern slavery as well as be introduced to data-driven solutions to combat modern slavery. Specifically, this session discussed 1) the use of survey-based estimation techniques and respondent-driven sampling approaches in measuring and tracking this phenomenon and 2) technology-driven, computational law, AI and big data methods that can be developed and deployed to help governments, businesses and civil society to combat modern slavery.


  • Adriana Bora, The Future Society
  • Brian Ulicny, Thomson Reuters Labs
  • Bryan Wilson, MIT Connection Science
  • David Crowley, TRUPR
  • Dazza Greenwood, & MIT Media Lab
  • Jacqueline Joudo Larsen, Walk Free Foundation
  • Pablo Diego-Rosell, Gallup, Inc.
  • Sheldon Zhang, University of Massachusetts Lowell
  • Tomas Lares, United Abolitionists
  • Yuki Lo, The Freedom Fund
  • Shawnna Hoffman, IBM Global Watson

Watch here our Project AIMS’ manager, Adriana Bora, presenting challenges in accessing and structuring modern slavery data and our work on using AI against modern slavery.