BLOCKPOOL and University of Manchester Partner to Combat Human Slavery and Child Labor

Blockpool together with the University of ManchesterUNSEENThe Hartree Centre, and CDD — a leading compliance and due diligence technology firm — have proposed The Blockchain and the UK Modern Slavery Act (BC4MSA), whose goal is to develop a blockchain system capable of mapping forced labour intelligence nationally and internationally.

While slavery was largely abolished in the 19th century, modern day slavery is still is an unfortunate reality throughout the world. According to the International Labor Organization and Global Slavery Index:

“An estimated 40.3 million men, women, and children were victims of modern slavery on any given day in 2016. Of these, 24.9 million people were in forced labour and 15.4 million people were living in a forced marriage. Women and girls are vastly over-represented, making up 71 percent of victims. Modern slavery is most prevalent in Africa, followed by the Asia and the Pacific region.”(1)

Many of these people are working under forced labor conditions on fishing boats, construction sites, farms, in factories, or in the sex industry. The products made under forced labor conditions can often end up in commercial channels selling anything from textiles and electronic devices, to groceries.(2)

An investigative report by UK’s Sky News showed children as young as 4 years old mining for cobalt with bare hands and feet for a meagre ~10 cent daily wage in the Congo.(3) Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Company is the world’s largest buyer of so called “artisanal” cobalt from the Congo. Until very recently, Apple and Samsung purchased Zhejiang Huayou’s cobalt to manufacture batteries that go into smartphones, computers, and other consumer gadgets.(4)

Blockchain technology makes BC4MSA a compelling solution for a number of reasons. Firstly, it enables a trustless system where the integrity and availability of the network is not reliant on any single party. Secondly, the light-weight nature of blockchain technology enables efficient information sharing, minimizing investment and maintenance costs in the long-run. Lastly, because the data is encrypted using multi-signature technology, there is a lower risk of data breaches and confidentiality issues as compared with centralized databases.(5) 

BC4MSA is designed as a secure data provenance solution that tracks forced labor incidents as ‘transactions’ on a blockchain. These transactions store information about where and when a labor violation occurred, who was involved, and the type of violation. This data would then be verified by a UK-based NGO (ex: Unicef, Save the Children) or a welfare support officer, and then escalated to a criminal case with law enforcement. Forced labor incidents could also be shared between welfare support teams and investigative units in different countries to catch offenders red-handed throughout the world.

Sources: 

1. The Global Slavery Index, “Global Findings – 2018” https://www.globalslaveryindex.org/2018/findings/global-findings/ 

2. International Labour Office, “Global Estimates of Modern Slavery” http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_575479.pdf 

3. Tom Cheshire (Sky News), “Child Miners: Firm Refuses to Apologise over Cobalt Sourcing” https://news.sky.com/story/child-miners-firm-refuses-to-apologise-over-cobalt-sourcing-10785313 

4. Todd C. Frankel, (Washington Post), “Apple Cracks Down Further on Cobalt Supplier in Congo as Child Labor Persists” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/03/03/apple-cracks-down-further-on-cobalt-supplier-in-congo-as-child-labor-persists/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.32761e2ca907 

5. Ser-Huang Poon, Martin Carpenter (University of Manchester, in collaboration with The Hartree Foundation, CDD, BLOCKPOOL.IO, and UNSEEN) “Blockchain and the UK Modern Slavery Act”

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