Defence challenges hackers to prevent violent conflicts (video)

What makes a dormant conflict turn violent? And can this tipping point be identified sooner, or even prevented altogether, by linking data flows? This is the challenge set for talented young hackers during Odyssey 2020, the largest hackathon in the world, by the Ministry of Defence and its external partners. The aim: to develop an early warning signal system that works. Teams have until 24 February to apply.

Current early warning technology used by Defence is in need of improvement if we are to prevent violence sooner, according to Colonel Dirk Jan Broks, head of the Conflict Prevention Team (TCP).

Making the impossible possible

Together with the FRONT innovation centre (Future Relevant Operations with Next Generation Technology & Thinking), the team will enter into a Conflict Prevention Challenge. The next generation of tech talent will have 48 hours in which to tackle this challenge. Broks: “At first, a solution may seem impossible, but the aim of the hackathon is to challenge the participants to make the impossible possible.”

Are innovators capable of solving this complex challenge with data? That is the idea. While a hackathon may not be the most obvious course of action, it could bring us a step closer to reaching a solution. The Odyssey Hackathon attracts the attention of hacking talent from all over the world.

A unique opportunity, says Gertie Arts, FRONT strategic advisor on resilience: “These young people are true talents and specialists in their field. With them we bring together in a short space of time the possibilities of artificial intelligence and blockchain technology for early warning in conflict prevention. Not only the knowledge this generation has, but even more so their way of thinking and their passion make this a truly unique event.”

Video: conflict prevention

Conflict prevention

Joint innovation

TCP and FRONT have joined forces in their search for new possibilities. FRONT focuses mainly on short-cycle innovation, through an ‘outside-in’ process. Arts: “We explore, connect and strengthen technological developments that are taking place outside Defence, and use experiments and other means to determine whether these developments are relevant to the armed forces.”

During the hackathon, TCP and FRONT will also work together with the Netherlands Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Netherlands Public Prosecution Service, network operator Enexis, KLM Cargo and the Business Plan for Peace organisation from the United Kingdom.

The Odyssey 2020 hackathon will take place on 3, 4 and 5 April in Groningen, the Netherlands. For more information on the hackathon and the challenge set by Defence, visit