Big Data Analytics Helps Indian NGO Combat Human Trafficking

by Sohini Bagchi    Jun 01, 2017

big data

Finding missing children and understanding the complex web of human trafficking is no easy task. The relevant datasets are massive and often  not standardized. My Choices Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in India, got a solution to their ever-increasing challenge. The Hyderabad based company uses big data analytics to help alleviate one of the world’s worst social problems - human trafficking.

While many organizations work to rescue girls and prosecute the traffickers, Operation Red Alert, a program of My Choices Foundation, is a prevention program designed to help parents, teachers, village leaders and children to understand how the traffickers work so they can block their efforts. Poor village girls are typically targeted by traffickers with promises that the girls are being offered wonderful opportunities for an education, jobs or marriage. But with over 600,000 villages in India, Operation Red Alert needed help to determine which areas were most at risk to prioritize their education efforts.

As a pro bono project, the Australian analytics firm Quantium developed a big data solution that runs on Cisco UCS infrastructure and uses the MapR Converged Data Platform. The solution analyzes India’s census data, government education data and other sources for factors such as drought, poverty level, proximity to transportation stations, educational opportunities, population, and distance to police stations to identify the villages and towns that are most at risk of human trafficking.

“The general Indian public is still largely unaware that trafficking exists, and most parents have no idea that their children are actually being sold into slavery,” said Elca Grobler, founder of the My Choices Foundation. “That’s why grassroots awareness and education at the village level is so important to ending the human traffic trade.”

Operation Red Alert

With the vision to end sex trafficking in India by preventing girls from ever entering it, Operation Red Alert began its efforts in 2014 by conducting research on root causes and by building relationships with long standing non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the field. Working with Quantium they analyzed data while constantly refining and iterating to define a model that could identify villages most at risk. Red Alert now has 40 NGO partners which have helped conduct the Safe Village education program in 600 villages throughout four states in India, reaching over 600,000 villagers. Red Alert was also instrumental in creating India’s first national anti-trafficking helpline, and is conducting mass media awareness campaigns.

“We are helping to banish human trafficking, one village at a time, through a combination of highly sophisticated technology and grassroots Safe Village education implemented through our NGO partners,” said Elca Grobler, founder of the My Choices Foundation. “The national helpline gives villagers a link to continual support, and with 95 million mobile phones in India that gives us a very broad reach. We’re also adding data and refining our predictive analytics, while expanding our education efforts to cover more states this year.”

Red Alert also launched The Good Father, a mass media awareness campaign to prevent large scale human trafficking in India, and produced the world’s first virtual reality film on sex trafficking, titled “Notes To My Father.”

The tech backbone

Quantium brings together proprietary data, technology and innovative data scientists to enable the development of ground-breaking analytical applications, and develops insights into consumer needs, behaviors, and media consumption by analyzing consumer transaction data. Quantium upgraded its legacy server platform with Cisco UCS to gain centralized management and the computing power needed to process complex algorithms in a dense, scalable form factor that also reduces power consumption. Cisco Nexus 9000 switches provide a simplified network with the scalable bandwidth to meet their current and future requirements. The MapR Converged Data Platform enables organizations to create intelligent applications that fully integrate analytics with operational processes in real time. The MapR Platform provides the multi-tenancy, high-speed performance and scale needed to power the Operation Red Alert data platform.

Rigorous testing by Quantium demonstrated that the MapR-Cisco platform decreased query processing time by 92 percent, a performance increase of 12.5 times the legacy platform. With the Cisco-MapR solution, Quantium’s data scientists can design complex queries that run against multi-terabyte data sets and get more accurate results in just minutes rather than hours or days. In addition, the more powerful platform drives innovation because scientists can shorten development time by testing alternative scenarios quickly and accurately.

“UCS gives us the agility that’s key to supporting our iterative approach to analytics,” said Simon Reid, Group Executive for Technology at Quantium. “For example, with the analytics for Operation Red Alert we’re fine-tuning the algorithm, adding more hypothesis and more granular data to improve our predictive capabilities. MapR adds performance security and the ability to segregate multiple data sets from multiple data partners for Operation Red Alert.”

Grobler said, human trafficking is the second largest and fastest growing crime industry in the world today. “Every three minutes a girl in India is sold into slavery: the average age is twelve years old. Over 200,000 Indian children are tricked, kidnapped or coerced into slavery every year,” she said quoting statistics.

While public awareness is the most effective barrier to human trafficking, big data analytics was successful in answering many a questions to this complex problem, summed up Grobler.