TechCamp Nepal Helps Protect Migrant Workers’ Rights

Every year, approximately a half million workers from Nepal travel to find employment abroad. In the process they may face unscrupulous recruiters at home, difficult conditions abroad, lack of knowledge of their rights, and crushing debt. Earlier this month, U.S. Embassy Kathmandu hosted TechCamp Nepal to find ways to use technology to help protect the rights of migrant workers. The three-day event brought together more than 80 Nepali technology experts and migration -- focused civil society leaders from Nepal, Qatar, India, United Arab Emirates, and the United States. The local and international technology experts taught civil society leaders how to use a variety of low-cost, easy-to-implement technology solutions including apps, mapping, SMS, social media, and free and open source software options, among others.

In preparation for TechCamp Nepal, Humanity United hosted a four-day “migration learning tour,” which took a small group of technology developers, designers, and entrepreneurs on a trip around Nepal in order to help them understand the challenges faced by Nepali migrant workers.  It showed them how typical Nepali migrant workers gather information about overseas employment, interact with employment agencies and, finally, how they actually travel from their villages to the destination country for work.  Afterwards, participants developed ideas of the types of information and delivery methods that would be most useful to migrant workers.  Examples included an online rating system for recruitment agencies, apps that give assistance with foreign employment permits, and real-time medical translation services.

During his opening remarks at TechCamp Nepal, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires John L. Carwile emphasized that migrant workers are a driving force in Nepal’s economy. He also highlighted the State Department’s support for programs like these, which help reduce the risk of abuse and exploitation that migrant workers face overseas.

A partnership between the State Department and U.S.-based NGO Humanity United, TechCamp Nepal attracted participants from a wide array of backgrounds. Other partners included Microsoft’s Innovation Center in Nepal, Facebook’s Internet.org, local businesses and entrepreneurs, civil society groups, and government officials from the United States, Nepal, and Qatar. 

US Chargé d’Affaires John L. Carwile greets the Qatari Ambassador to Nepal at the opening of TechCamp Nepal [U.S. Embassy Kathmandu]

TechCamp Nepal was successful in connecting a network of young activists and technologists, and in fostering constructive dialogue between Nepali and Qatari officials. Longer-term solutions to the migrant workers’ problems will require cooperation among governments, civil society, and the private sector in both sending and receiving countries.  The participation of both Qatari and Nepali officials in the TechCamp reflected their governments’ increasing attention to addressing the challenges of Nepali migrant workers. During the final day of TechCamp Nepal, participants pitched 13 different potential projects to a panel of expert judges for feedback and review.

Even though TechCamp Nepal is over, many of the participants are still working on further developing their technology-based solutions. The State Department and Humanity United are committed to helping these ideas become applicable technologies that can make a real difference in protecting migrant workers. 

About the Author: William Holton serves as a the Cultural Affairs Officer at U.S.Embasy Kathmandu.

For more information:

TechCamp Nepal Participants Learn About Tech Solutions to Protect Migrant Workers’ Rights. [U.S. Embassy Kathmandu Photo]
Posted by William Holton
September 22, 2015

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