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New Smartphone App Helps Human Trafficking Victims Find Services

"Safe from Sale," a smartphone app created by USAID and NetHope to raise awarenessof trafficking in persons and help victims find services, will be launched in Albania later this year.

July 1, 2013

"Safe from Sale," a smartphone app created by USAID and NetHope to raise awareness of trafficking in persons and help victims find services, will be launched in Albania later this year.

The app will allow the public to refer themselves or others through the existing National Referral Mechanism for victims of trafficking, contact an anti-trafficking hotline, locate services on a map, and learn about the issue.

Last week, NetHope member World Vision organized a program design workshop in Tirana attended by representatives of the government ministries that make up the Anti-Trafficking Unit, social service providers, shelters, Vodafone Foundation and USAID/Albania. Project plans are currently being finalized for an expected pilot period of July-September followed by a national launch in October.

The USAID Global Broadband and Innovations (GBI) team is interested in how smartphone applications increase demand for and thus investment in broadband.

From the archived program landing page - "Safe From Sale: Using Technology to Combat Trafficking in Persons" (circa 2013)

Through this program, USAID seeks to leverage the reach and experience of the NetHope consortium to call attention to trafficking in persons; design a technology-based pilot to address it; and gather multi-level stakeholders to implement anti-trafficking activities. To that end, NetHope has developed a mobile app to give civil society organizations a tool to raise awareness and help connect victims of human trafficking with services and support.

The Android app, created by IntelMind, the winner of NetHope’s Stop Human Trafficking App Challenge, works on wide variety of Android-operated devices, including the smallest, least-costly smartphones. Users do not require Internet connectivity to access all features, and ‘Safe from Sale’ is designed to use minimum data, therefore saving on costs. Any function not desired by the implementing organization can be removed.

As currently designed, “Safe from Sale” has the following features:

  • Map to Services: maps nearest services for victims in the target city
  • Services Database: lists victim services offline
  • Alert Trigger: sends a message with GPS coordinates to preloaded contacts and the implementing organization; allows the user’s movements to be tracked online
  • Report Trafficking: allows a user to send a message about suspected trafficking to the implementing organization
  • Knowledge Center: delivers educational material about human trafficking that can be updated by the implementing organization

“Safe From Sale” was designed to be easily and inexpensively adapted to different locations and languages.

From the archived program landing page - "Combating of Trafficking in Persons Program" (circa 2015)

The Global Broadband and Innovations (GBI) Alliance's Combating of Trafficking in Persons (cTIP) Program has developed an Android app to help reduce human trafficking, the illegal trading of human beings for commercial sex work or forced labor.

Developed for worldwide use, the first implementation is in Albania in partnership with World Vision and the Vodafone Foundation under the local name “Raporto-Shpeto” ("Report-Save Life”). As part of the GBI, the cTIP Program is a partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and NetHope, and World Vision is a NetHope member. The app launched nationwide in Albania on June 16, 2014, following a successful pilot.

While collecting statistics on human trafficking is difficult because of its hidden nature, Albania was chosen for the first implementation because it is believed to have one of the higher rates of human trafficking in the world. A decade ago the International Organization for Migration estimated that after the fall of the Iron Curtain about 30,000 Albanian sex workers were walking the streets of Europe, many trafficking victims. In a country of only about 3 million people, that represented almost 1 percent of the Albanian population. Today, Albanian men, women, and children continue to be subjected to human trafficking. Women and girls are subjected to commercial sex work or forced labor after accepting offers for employment or arranged marriage. Children are exploited for commercial sex, begging, and other forms of forced labor. Men are subjected to forced labor in agriculture in neighboring countries. Re-trafficking of rescued Albanian victims continues to be a problem.

The Government of Albania has taken steps to reduce trafficking, including setting up a national toll-free, 24-hour hotline to report incidents of trafficking or suspected trafficking. The hotline, however, could not be dialed with a cell phone, and few Albanians, especially in rural areas, have access to landlines. As a result, the hotline largely went unused. To change this, World Vision, Vodafone, and the Government of Albania worked together to identify a new pan-European six digit short code number for the hotline that can be reached for free from landlines and cell phones. That number was built into the “Raporto-Shpeto” ("Report-Save Life”) app.

The app’s features include:

  • Hotline direct dial: Calls the free national anti-trafficking hotline directly.
  • Map to services: Displays a map showing services for victims (shelters, hospitals, embassies, etc.) nearest the user's location.
  • Services database: Displays the same information as the map in a list form for users who don't have GPS-enabled phones or are looking for a particular type of service.
  • Report trafficking: Allows the user to report suspected trafficking to the authorities directly via SMS/text and email.
  • Knowledge center: Provides up-to-date information about the problem of human trafficking in Albania and how to identify and prevent human trafficking.
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