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Blockchain technology has been lauded for its adaptability in solving modern problems that have become increasingly difficult to address over time. One such case in point is the use of blockchain technology in the certification and licensing industries. Certificates and licences play an important role in our lives. Babies born in hospitals are issued birth certificates from birth, and the average person might very well spend a significant portion of their lives attempting to obtain various certifications from educational institutions and governmental institutions alike, such as driving licences, diplomas, and so on. Educational certificates enable people to indicate their expertise in a variety of fields of practice and be compensated accordingly.
These licences and certifications play a huge role in how we are allowed to live our lives, where we can be, and the things we can do. They can be seen as social contracts that determine how we interact with society. However, in the event that an individual falsifies these documents, we find a breach of the social contract and the harmful ensuing consequences for society. Forgery and falsification of documents and certificates are not necessarily new. Since the inception of these systems, there have been lapses that have been exploited. And in order to curtail these lapses, an upgrade of the system is necessary.
Conventional certifications and associated challenges
We all know and have certificates. At various points in our lives, we have come to understand that there are certain activities we cannot participate in without these certifications. Down to basic activities such as driving a car, for which one requires a driver’s licence, attending your dream university would be impossible if the proper results and certificates were not presented. However, there are several challenges that plague the current system of certification: most of its processes, such as payments and authentication, are manual, prone to forgery, tedious, and time-consuming to verify.
Most traditional certifications exist in the form of physical formats (mostly paper), which are difficult to carry around and easy to forge. Despite the existence of digital databases with the advent of technology, we find that verifying these certificates becomes problematic and time-consuming. Various solutions have been developed to fix the problem of counterfeit certificates, most of which have proven to be ineffective in the long term. Aside from the obvious drawbacks, conventional certification methods have a negative impact on the planet. Millions of trees are cut down each year to produce paper. We find that current systems of certification are not just ineffective but also detrimental to the environment.
Another acknowledged challenge is determining the authenticity of traditional certifications. According to a 2020 survey, 75% of universities in the United Kingdom cannot detect a fake certificate. The majority of verification procedures are cumbersome and inconvenient, but they are done to make sure that credentials are legitimate and authentic. The absence of centralised, publicly available databases is partly to blame for these weaknesses, which are routinely exploited. These difficulties make it difficult to transfer certification between parties and necessitate protracted legal processes.
Blockchain technology can help reinvent certification and verification processes; here’s how.
As is well known, blockchain protocols function as a distributed ledger that is decentralised and secures its data with cryptography. The fact that data kept on a blockchain may be easily made available (visible to anybody) and can be regarded as immutable or unforgeable is a significant distinction between blockchain databases and conventional databases. Bitcoin, for instance, demonstrates this by securely storing trillions of dollars for many years.
An NFT is a cryptographic token that can be used to represent digital or non-digital objects, pictures, music, real estate, and, in this context, any certificate. The unique attribute of NFTs is that they are non-fungible. When an NFT is minted on a blockchain, it carries unique metadata (hash signatures) that solely belongs to that NFT. This sole attribute of NFTs makes them a smart solution to most of the challenges facing conventional certification methods. In this case, the NFT issuer, being any institution or organisation, can mint NFT certificates, which can be verified by any party seamlessly.
Digital non-fungible assets are easier to verify using smart contracts, reducing processes that may have taken weeks and months to mere seconds. The ownership and authenticity can be verified by simply comparing the generated hash signature on the document to that of the NFT. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the number of young people with a higher education qualification is expected to surpass 300 million people in the OECD and G20 nations, a large percentage of whom will likely be looking to further their education internationally. Considering the language barriers, international authentication, and legalisation processes, blockchain technology can significantly impact the process and create a much more seamless solution to these problems.
An NFT-based certificate management system can revolutionise payment services using smart contracts. As such, when an individual wishes to obtain a certificate, they only need to meet the requirements as already codified in the smart contract. Once payment is made, the certificate is minted and immediately sent to the rightful recipient. This significantly reduces time, automates transactions, and keeps a proper transactional record for posterity. The use of smart contracts can notably reduce common errors associated with human processes. All the required instructions are updated in the smart contract to create a convenient user experience.
Blockchain-based certification has an obvious benefit over conventional certification methods, offering faster authentication, more transparency, and reliable data. It has the ability to reshape inter-institutional connections and the way vital information is shared among educational, governmental, and other key institutions.
There are several blockchain frameworks already in the works for an educational-scale blockchain solution for certificate issuance. EduCTX is a foremost educational credit blockchain platform that integrates educational institutions as nodes. Students can use the blockchain to exchange transcripts with universities and companies for easy verification. Another notable blockchain-based certificate solution is BLOCKCERTS, which has built blockchain-based databases for a genre of data such as academic credentials, professional certifications, civic records, and so on. All of which can be transparently verified by intending parties.
Blockchain technology can help provide a much-needed upgrade to how certificates are stored, authenticated, and verified, while a section of society may be apprehensive towards the adoption of blockchain technology largely due to preconceived notions. We find that the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages in this case. Adoption of blockchain technology can save millions of dollars for educational and government institutions. It can also provide a much-needed framework for easier international relations. The transparency and security It provides ensures that its data is verifiable and acceptable by individuals and institutions anywhere in the world. We are especially interested in learning which certificates will be made possible by blockchain.