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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Students develop apps to trap human traffickers

It was a tale of two marathons in one city – Lagos: one in the physical space, the other in the cyber space. While athletes of different ages and nationalities converged on the megacity for the 42+ kilometre race, snaking the landscape from the National Stadium to Victoria Island, 64 young coders drawn from different universities across Nigeria had another marathon in the cocoon of Andela Epic Tower, a 21st century cutting edge IT office space located at the heart of the city.

Members of the winning team, Predex, are Kyoto bound

With support from 20 experienced mentors, the youngsters with ages ranging from 19 to 22 commenced the coding marathon at exactly 10:15 am. The university undergraduates had something in common – competing to showcase how youth can contribute using technology to implement Goal 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Following the successful 2019 event in Lagos, the 64 Nigerian students were brought together by Facebook, Andela and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) with the aim to spark their creativity whilst pushing their coding capabilities to find technological solutions to tackle crime, uphold justice and promote the rule of law.

After two days of compelling creativity, four students of the team Predex were declared the winners. The winning project was an application that used artificial intelligence to send warning signals to users of chat applications if the conversation had indications that they might be recruited for human trafficking as well as other forms of sexual abuse.

The team trained their model based on existing datasets of conversations between victims and recruiters for human trafficking or perpetrators of sexual abuse against children.

As a prize, UNODC’s Education for Justice (E4J) initiative will bring the team to the 14th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, to be held in Kyoto, Japan, from April 20 to 27, 2020, where they will have a chance to present their application.

This year’s runner-up was an application by the team e-Recyclers. Their project focused on developing a network aimed to inform consumers on how to legally recycle e-waste and hereby to keep it away from the domain of organised criminal groups. The application would help users to determine how and where to recycle e-waste, as well as provide incentives for the lawful recycling of e-waste, with the sponsorship of technology companies.

This activity is a part of UNODC’s E4J initiative, the objective of which is to educate youths on crime, justice and rule of law issues. The Hackathon4Justice event showcases how young people can play an active and creative role in promoting the rule of law, while learning about the issues that affect them.

The E4J initiative is part of the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration of UNODC.

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