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Rail industry systems adapted to trace Sudanese kidnap victims

CONSULTANT HALCROW is adapting knowledge gained in the rail industry to help victims of the long-running Sudanese civil war.

Experts have created a database to help volunteers trace enslaved kidnap victims and return them home.

Halcrow's IT team creates systems for train operators, using databases to log delays and spot trends.

It has applied this know-how to details of more than 12,000 kidnappings, often involving children. Many took place as far back as 1983 in southern Sudan.

The database needs to be flexible as much of the information, collected in the local language, is incomplete or error-strewn.

'The matching has to work with Dinka rather than English. One of the interesting challenges was to match poorly spelled Dinka names, ' said Halcrow project manager Pete Johnson.

'There's a lot of transcription error to overcome and plenty of tidying up to do. A lot of this will feed back as the rail industry uses old systems that don't talk to each other.

'Solving this kind of data quality problem is quite a challenge for the rail industry so I'm pleased we are picking up expertise we can bring back.'

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