In the past three years, Partnership for Freedom has collaborated on two innovation challenges to inspire, reward, pilot and potentially scale constructive solutions to end labour trafficking and support survivors.
In 2015, PFF called upon developers, designers, advocates, and innovators to submit concepts for technological solutions that identify and address labor trafficking in global supply chains for goods and services for the Rethink Supply Chains Challenge.
In the first of our challenge finalists series, we chat to Ulula, a platform analysing and mapping forced labour using a mobile communication channel between workers and supply chain leaders to report on working conditions.
// Can you share with us the digital solutions Ulula has in identifying and addressing labor trafficking in global supply chains?
Ulula has built a global worker engagement platform to connect with workers anywhere, anytime and in real time. We work with large brands, suppliers, workers and their representatives to create shared value within the supply chain. Workers can anonymously report abuses in the workplace and other violations. Brands can conduct regular assessments of their supply chains at scale and lower cost to identify problems and measure progress. We are now expanding our system to integrate mobile money and create a common interface for workers to get paid, send money home and have a voice.
// And how do the solutions address workers’ voices, recruitment and traceability?
Ulula relies on simple mobile phones–SMS and voice–and all languages to make its system easily accessible to workers. The system uses high-grade encryption so that workers can speak up without fear of retaliation. Ulula’s integration with mobile money creates a more transparent and effective hiring system. Employers who hire directly can pay their workers with the system and get automatic payroll records. Recruitment agencies’ fees processed through digital payments can be monitored more transparently to avoid abusive practices.
// What are the biggest challenges to deploying a feedback service to migrants and establishing transparency with local your communities?
Building trust is probably the most significant challenge. Technology can provide strong safeguards to migrant workers privacy. The benefits of technology and transparency are uncertain unless the service is designed not just for but with the migrant workers. We rely on human-centered design to develop a product that responds to the practical needs of migrant workers and directly responds to the risks they identify in order to maximize adoption. Partnerships with local organizations (associations, NGOs, religious organizations) is often instrumental to enhancing collective trust and use of the service.
// How far can the reach of the Ulula’s product spread across the globe? Do you foresee bureaucratic and/or cultural challenges according to the nations where it is established?
Ulula has developed partnerships with over 800 mobile operators to create a platform with global capabilities. We are integrating with one of the leading mobile money technology providers to facilitate integration with mobile money providers across the globe. Our system depends on the strength of the local mobile money market -which can be a barrier to adoption by migrant workers if such an infrastructure is missing or underdeveloped. Cross-border financial transactions are also subject to strict regulations –for instance anti-money laundering- that are necessary but can hamper the rapid scale up of the system.
// What projected impact will Ulula’s solutions have in connection to forced labor issues in five years time should you be the Rethink Supply Chains winner?
Empowering workers with information and a better system to get paid and send money home can play a transformative role for millions of migrant workers. Ulula’s solutions can shed light and help root out corrupt and unethical practice by recruitment agencies and help employers hire and pay workers directly with ease. Ulula can help turn one of the most serious business and human rights problems of our time into a win-win situation offering more voice and higher incomes to workers and guaranteeing a more transparent and easier to navigate hiring process for employers.
"We rely on human-centered design to develop a product that responds to the practical needs of migrant workers and directly responds to the risks they identify in order to maximize adoption."