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Mar 5, 2018

In Episode 5 of Series 3 we find out how satellites are being used to root out slavery from space. Our guest is Dr Doreen Boyd from the University of Nottingham who is part of a team of researchers who are the first on the world to use geospatial intelligence to identify slavery locations to support the efforts of organisations and individuals trying to root out and put an end to modern slavery in countries around the world.

0.00 - 6.45

  • Doreen explains how previously she has been using satellites to look at tropical rainforests but more recently as part of the Rights Lab project has been using them to identify locations where modern slavery is occurring
  •  It takes many months to obtain completely cloud free images of the earth's surface but the resolution of the images is improving all the time
  • Todd mentions examples of where satellites have been used to identify human rights abuses such as in Sri Lanka and in South Sudan
  • A major part of the work to date has involved using satellite imagery to identify brick kilns in South Asia - brick kilns are often linked with modern slavery (around 70 per cent of workforce)
  • The project covers the so-called Brick Belt which covers 1.25 square kilometres
  • Todd points out that this is part of a much bigger problem and that certain industries are harder to spot from space

6.50 - 12.15

  • Doreen talks about how her team used images from the free source Google Earth to count brick kilns in an area and then statistically estimate the size of the problem
  • She explains how this information can then be used to expose and address the problem
  • Todd outlines some of the statistical techniques and how they are similar across disciplines 
  • Discussion around who uses the evidence and how and why it is so robust and indisputable

12.15 - end

  • The research team has also discovered evidence of modern slavery at fisheries in the UNESCO World Heritage site Sundarbans National Park in Bangladesh
  • Doreen points out that as well as identifying human rights abuses the technology can also identify environmental issues
  • Doreen outlines some additional work on charcoal production in Brazil 
  • Todd mentions the risks associated with following up on evidence on the ground but also how deployment of technology (e.g. use of drones) can overcome some of those problems
  • Doreen talks about how being able to link environmental issues and modern slavery has had a role in promoting activism

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