Interviewing Emercoin’s managing partner Konstantin Bigus.
Blockchain technologies keep spreading into more areas of our lives, coming in like a flood changing everything, offering better alternatives. Education is one of the areas where new Internet algorithms promise a real revolution. For instance, an Oxford researcher plans to open a blockchain-based university in Malta, more so, Oxford created their own Blockchain Research Centre and aiming to open a blockchain-related university in the future. All payments to students, such as scholarships, grants, etc. will be transferred using blockchain as well. Besides, some leading international universities launch courses about blockchain, fox example, London School of Economics and Moscow State Institute of International Relations.
One of the recent blockchain technologies to have impacted the education system is diploma verification tools. Exclusively for Future Times Emercoin’s managing partner Konstantin Bigus talks details about their «Trusted Diploma» project and their collaboration with The University of Georgia that was announced at the beginning of August.
Future Times: What prompted Emercoin to create a system that verifies diplomas?
Konstantin Bigus: The problem with university diplomas forgery is quite common. Countries where higher education costs a lot of money face this problem more often than others. It happens because the monitoring tools used for education verification are not as transparent as we would like.
I got my second education in America, and some years ago when an embassy asked to see my diploma, I ran into a problem. My diploma looks like that thing you see in movies: a leaflet of an A4 format with the university’s president signature. A paper like this can be forged in a blink of an eye. Then, I thought: «How can I prove its authenticity?». I had to write to my university, ask them for confirmation.
Then it was clear to me that Emercoin had all the tools for implementing the idea of verifying diplomas.
So, we agreed to launch a pilot project in Georgia with the University of Business and Technology in Tbilisi (Business & Technology University, BTU). It is an innovative and open to blockchain technologies university, as Georgia itself.
FT: How will it work?
KB: Emercoin has created a site called «Trusted Diploma» where there is a description of the project, the solution and the entry to see directly how it will work. There is also a section for a Georgia pilot project where you can already test the system.
For instance, a future employee comes in for a job, and he is still studying or has already graduated. Now he can use our system just submitting all necessary data to «Trusted Diploma». After that, you’ll be able to see, that this information is stored on blockchain.
FT: In this case, how can users hide their information if they want to?
KB: Until I know your private data, this information is not published on the site. It depends on jurisdiction and some rights. But such data as a name, surname, a year of receipt can be public — this is basically considered public data. In the case of encrypted data, this information will only be provided to specific users, those who need it, for example, students. So, if you want to share something, you just conditionally send them a link.
The problem and, at the same time, the advantage of blockchain technologies is that they create a sufficiently irreversible process. It means that you should make a decision whether you want to translate a part of the operating system, documents or registries on blockchain or not. In the case of public blockchain, you cannot just delete all your information. Anyway, all data will continue to be stored there.
FT: Last year the Massachusetts University of Technology announced the creation of diplomas verification technology. Also, BCDiploma is creating something similar on Ethereum. What are the technological advantages of Trusted Diploma?
KB: It is a question of what you want to do directly. As I know, in the case of Massachusetts University they developed an open source project. However, to verify a diploma you have to know the URL of the credentials. If a graduate does not want to share this data, then an employer can’t verify a certificate.
For «Trusted Diploma» such solutions are not competition, but another source of verified data. Let’s all be such islets of knowledge that provide market with proven data.
We offer a solution to real problems with the help of our technologies.
Then either someone will head it and merge it all together, or a new source will appear and say “I came up with a new aggregator that would be super safe to bring everything together.” Now it is not the stage when you have to worry that someone has already done it.
FT: What’s the plan for the project’s future improvement?
KB: We had a task to make a minimum viable product (MVP) and this is basically a working product. After that, we will build a development strategy. Many Universities can participate, because we want to grow a community around it, and we need a partnership with a large number of stakeholders.
If you look at the project at all, companies or projects like LinkedIn are the most important in this system. LinkedIn is a place that brings professionals, all potential employees of the company and recruiters together. These recruiters should be given the most convenient and verified data. As a part of our project, creating a global platform where universities and students will be tested and recruiters will need less time and resources to test them is very convenient.
FT: But what is required to scale the project?
KB: Now we have about 3 concepts for «Trusted Diploma» in the works. There are several options: first, this can continue being done on Emercoin technology taking out several resources to motivate universities to participate in this. It is also possible to partner with key stakeholders who are precisely profitable. And third is a mix of some Emercoin-based tokens, which will create a token-economy for this project.
FT: What is the Emercoin policy regarding education? What other projects are related to the field?
KB: Now we are developing a course. This is probably not a direct implementation of blockchain in education, but it is very important for us to give the community an academic methodology for blockchain.
We are developing courses on the Emercoin technology about the business part where it is possible to use Emercoin. When a person finishes the course, they will receive an Emercoin’s certificate developer. It means that they have passed the course tests, and now they can already make some decisions. We will still have a blockchain certificate which will be a sign that we are working with them, and they understand us. Besides that, it will be Emercoin business certificate analyse. It is a person, not a developer who understands the technology well and understands what painful business points can be resolved using various solutions.
Despite the fact that the achievements regarding to blockchain-related diplomas seem to have a potential, it is likely that it will take some time before educational institutions and companies can use this system everywhere. Only time will tell how these and other innovations associated with the enormous capabilities of blockchain can benefit the education world.
Anyway, Emercoin is determined to implement the verification diploma technology. So, maybe, in the near future, we will be showing employers our diplomas stored on blockchain.