Empowering and protecting migrant workers

Who we worked with


What we did together

GovTech Accelerator

It’s about empowering people, with information about their rights. I’m not convinced minimum standards exist for migrant workers at the moment.”

Dhilum Nightingale
VERI-Mi, Founder

The problem

Every day, people who have moved to New Zealand to work in sectors like hospitality are getting exploited. Dhilum Nightingale, a lawyer with experience in the community law space, heard these stories of vulnerable migrant workers being exploited by their employers. These workers are often unaware of their rights, afraid to speak up, and their employers create fake documents. As a result, they are being treated terribly. It was clear to Dhilum that there was something going wrong, either in policy, enforcement, or something else, which makes these cases of exploitation so prevalent and so hard to get justice.

The solution

To empower and protect migrant workers, Dhilum and their team created VERI-Mi, a platform that allows workers to become more aware of their employment rights, effectively record the time they spend at work and have this linked to employment agreements. VERI-Mi can also collect evidence about illegal work requests and record the actual hours worked. It also connects users with trusted and free advisors who can help them get on to a better visa (many of these visas bind a worker to their specific employer, leaving the employer in a position of power) and get redress for what exploitation had happened. 

Potential features of the app include:

  • Educating people on their employment rights
  • Recording actual time spent at work
  • Collects evidence on any illegal moves
  • Connects workers with free, confidential and professional support

Testing and Validation

One of the challenges that Dhilum faced was getting insights from people in ethnic communities, but they found that using empathic and caring interviewing techniques helped. They also benefited from the involvement of startups and NGOs in the programme, which provided diverse perspectives and approaches. Dhilum observed that the programme helped them with research, challenging assumptions, testing, interviewing techniques, and data management.

The GovTech Programme helped Dhilum and their team create VERI-Mi, a platform that empowers and protects vulnerable migrant workers. The programme provided structure, validation, diverse input, connections, and resources, which enabled Dhilum to turn their vision into a reality. VERI-Mi has the potential to make a significant impact on the lives of migrant workers and improve their employment rights.

What was enabled by GovTech

The impact of GovTech on the project was significant. The team mentioned that they might have been able to achieve their goals eventually, but it would have taken them three to four times as long. By participating in GovTech, they were able to focus intensely on the problem without the distraction of BAU. The problem discovery tools addressed assumptions and extracted information from stakeholders which enabled them to really comprehend the issue. GovTech created a high-paced environment that pushed the team to work efficiently and quickly. Overall, GovTech enabled the team to make significant progress in a short amount of time, and they attribute much of their success to the program.

GovTech provided an opportunity to bounce ideas off other people and create connections within the cohort, which included organizations like Kainga Ora and Greater Wellington Regional Council. By being in this environment, participants were able to gain valuable insights into the challenges that other organizations were facing, and this helped them to identify potential solutions for their own problems.

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