Using blockchain to unchain education
The startup Educhain aims to empower students, schools, governments and businesses
Imagine that you are the regional HR head of a major multinational company. And you've just read the following CNN report from 2010. "George Gollin, a board member of the US-based Council for Higher Education Accreditation, told CNN he estimates that more than 100,000 fake degrees are sold each year in the US alone. Of those, around one third are postgraduate degrees. He added that a bogus degree will typically cost $1,000. ($100 million market in US alone)". Despite their best efforts, corporate organisations, government departments and educational institutions are targeted by candidates with fraudulent qualifications.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of the business opportunity for authenticating educational certifications digitally. In the absence of verified data or research in the area, educated estimates for the global market for academic credentials and all related processes is estimated to be between $17 billion and $30 billion. It is constantly growing as the number of students across the globe increases. There are a few distinct areas that are impacted by the presence of fraudulent academic credentials including national statistics on academic achievement, skill sets of the labour and workforce, impersonation and identity theft and of course selection of unqualified students into higher education streams.
On the one hand, there is an entire industry built around printing tamper-proof paper certificates, similar to the methods used for currency notes. On the other hand is the realisation that for the vast majority, access to authenticated digital records of educational qualifications would be pennies-on-the-dollar when all the costs relating to service fees, courier charges, notarisation and attestation are added up. Apart from just the costs are the enormous logistic challenges and the associated potential uncalculated costs of losing the opportunity to study or work. Recently, an industry colleague had to fork out thousands of dollars in notary and facilitation fees to get her qualifications authenticated from the multiple countries that she had studied and interned in.
Educhain is a blockchain-based solution conceptualised to address these challenges. Mark Balovnev is the co-founder and CEO. Along with Marek Termanowski, co-founder and CSO, his experience was that because all their diplomas, certificates and other documents were paper-based, they were constantly required to contact home institutions, deal with government and attesting authorities, employers and more. The business opportunity presented itself to them - a global problem hampering the mobility of millions of students, professionals and even refugees. They knew that there had to be a solution through integrating new innovative technology.
These 2 close friends of many years have worked together on various innovation consulting projects. Together they created Educhain - a pioneering security and blockchain startup in the educational sphere aimed to empower students, schools, governments and businesses. Educhain's flagship solutions are the 'Smart Credentialing Platform' and the first comprehensive, digital passport of academic and professional achievements aimed at replacing paper-based solutions. Ideally, academic institutions can issue digital credentials, cutting processing time and costs. Learners can receive secure digital records in an 'Accomplishment Passport' right through their academic journey. The idea is that they can then view, manage and share documents globally for school transfers, university applications, job applications, and more - all with the click of a button. Recipients can then instantly validate authenticity of records, leading to time and cost savings and elimination of academic fraud.
So far, there has been reportedly strong growth and interest in collaborations from across the world. Recently, the company launched the world's largest pilot for blockchain in education, launched out of Dubai. The company is working with top institutions and employers from Mena, Europe and North America, encompassing 400,000 students and professionals. The launchpad for this was the recognition that the company received from Smart Dubai in May 2017. It was a winner in the inaugural Smart Dubai Blockchain Challenge and went on to collaborate with the government of Dubai's educational quality assurance and regulatory authority, the KHDA, under the Dubai Future Accelerators.
The solution appears to be scalable across geographies and use-cases.
The writer is founding partner at BridgeDFS, a bespoke digital financial services advisory firm (www.bridgeto.us). Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
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