” Using blockchain to beat typhoid. ”

Desmond Vrede,
Consultant Deloitte Digital.

After graduating in Information and Knowledge Management, Desmond Vrede became a consultant at Deloitte Digital. He provides various organisations with his expertise on how to make the most of IT. Recently he contributed to the international Blockchaingers Hackathon where he developed the Vaccivault solution, a digital vaccination record in the cloud.

You have to challenge yourself in order to stay sharp when your goal is to offer clients the latest and most innovative IT solutions. The world of IT is fast-moving and ever-changing. Each day brings new possibilities and developments. Deloitte gives you every opportunity to gain new insights and experiences, to continuously grow as a professional. Not only do you get access to a wide range of training options, but, for example, you can participate in hackathons.

In a team of seven colleagues, we signed up for an international hackathon with hundreds of ‘competitors’. The purpose of the hackathon was to find new applications for blockchain technology. We decided to develop a new solution for the healthcare sector. A socially relevant area, where we believed we could make a real impact with our IT expertise.

My team consisted of some of my direct colleagues but we also had two doctors join in. Deloitte values diversity within teams. We carefully consider not only what we want to achieve, but also about how to go about it. If you want to put together a well-functioning team, you have to acknowledge that nobody has the answers to every problem. So if you don't have a doctor's expertise in-house, your best way forward is to get one onboard. During a brainstorm session we discussed the old-fashioned paper vaccination booklet. In some countries, you’re legally obliged to show this booklet to prove you’ve been given the right vaccinations. The booklet hasn't been digitized, so it's not only easy for people to lose but could also have errors. To combat this, we've created a new application: the Vaccivault. It's a digital vaccination record that's stored in the cloud. At a glance a doctor can see which vaccinations you have and haven't had. The beauty of it is that you yourself decide who's allowed to view your data and who isn’t. You’ll  get a phone call to inform you of the access request, and then you choose whether to grant access.

In a hospital, information about vaccinations is crucial; people require certainty that the information they have is correct. Blockchain technology can offer reassurance because you can be sure that data has not been tampered with. Typhoid isn't the only contagious disease we can combat using blockchain. Currently there's a debate about whether certain vaccinations should be made compulsory in nurseries. Vaccivault could play a role in resolving this issue.

We exceeded our own expectations and made great progress towards our goal, but the real magic was in the way we worked together on this project. Everyone was eager to do their absolute best. During our pizza sessions we all felt like we were gradually getting closer and closer to a solution, which gave everyone a real energy boost and drive to continue. Tackling a complex issue like this is easiest when your team consists of people from many different disciplines. There's a wealth of things to learn, both in what goes well and where we can improve.

We eventually had to acknowledge that blockchain can’t work miracles. Some things will need more thought. For example, although data can't be accessed by just anybody, there also isn't a single person who has ownership. Should something go wrong along the way, there isn’t a single entity which has ownership or provides support.

'At Deloitte you can be truly entrepreneurial, and gain new insights and experiences working together across disciplines .'

Working on this project was great. Being part of a group of unique but like-minded people from different disciplines and backgrounds, driven to take on the challenge and achieving solutions together that none of us would even have been able to come up with  on our own? An amazing experience. I'm learning so much from working this way, which is truly something special Deloitte provides.' 

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