It was the night the hospital in Mariupol was bombed, March 9, 2022. I heard it on the radio at 7 am. There were probably many children and innocent civilians killed and injured. This horrific news prompted me to revive the Whiteflag project, deploying new technology to prevent such unnecessary bloodshed.
The Whiteflag initiative was set up in 2017 to prevent what often happens: innocent civilians die in disaster and conflict areas due to a lack of information from the warring parties. Whiteflag aims to provide both the warring and neutral parties with a reliable and trustworthy messaging network using blockchain technology. Through this messaging network, relevant information can be exchanged with the intention of preventing unnecessary bloodshed.
The project comes to a standstill
“This drama calls for the Whiteflag protocol”, came to my mind that early morning. The images of the bombing of the children’s hospital were terrible. The aggressor claimed that enemy troops were hiding, but it didn’t seem that way. ‘Time to take action!’, I thought. ‘I have to speak with Jasmijn Baldinger’. Jasmijn is VP for the Ministry of Defence at Capgemini and co-founder of Whiteflag Foundation. A few weeks before that very morning, I heard about the Whiteflag project during a meeting with Pim Kraan, director of Save the Children Netherlands, we met during a podcast about digital transformation for nonprofits.
When Pim heard that I used to work at Capgemini, he told me about Whiteflag. He had collaborated with Save the Children on this with great interest, but due to the sudden death of the project leader, the valuable project had come to a halt.
The podcast with Pim Kraan is about digital transformation. It is ‘chef sache’, ‘chief business’ to interfere with this as a CEO, says Pim during this conversation. Chief business…
It is also ‘chief business’ for NGOs to work together. Better, more efficient, and more effective collaboration is possible! In conflict situations, bullets fly around the ears, employees step on land mines, and hospitals, where aid workers are working, are hit by rockets.
Why don’t NGOs work with the same ‘military precision’ as combating forces do? Militaries are using the latest techniques to map conflict areas. Moving targets are virtually tracked on digital maps.
Collaborating aid organizations can ‘work together on the same page’ by sharing available and reliable data via web3 technology in a safe and reliable way, making confusion through fake news virtually impossible. That is what the Whiteflag Protocol does.
Back at Capgemini
That morning I called Jasmijn. She responded enthusiastically and said she was thrilled if I would be willing to commit myself to Whiteflag. We made an appointment and met. It was a pleasant experience to be at the Capgemini office after so many years. Many former colleagues still knew me. “Are you coming back?” a former manager asked. “No, I’m on a mission!” I thought.
Jasmijn talked extensively about how the Whiteflag project came about. More than 5 years ago, a number of Capgemini employees came up with the concept of using blockchain technology for secure, reliable communication in conflict areas in order to prevent unnecessary casualties. It was initiated under Capgemini’s CSR policy. The board gave the approval to realize and build the protocol in open source technology. That is now ready and published on Github. There is even an extensive simulation game performed by Capgemini, the Royal Dutch Air Force, the International Red Cross, Save The Children, and Free Press Unlimited, among others.
A series of conversations and interviews followed, and I was appointed as Program Manager Whiteflag. I see this as a great responsibility. The project has been almost at a standstill for two years and there is no budget. Nevertheless, we wholeheartedly believe in a successful restart because there is a team of motivated and expert volunteers from Capgemini and the Air Force. And, last but not least, the cordial support of Save the Children Netherlands.