A few years ago when building a team I stumbled into the pitfalls of an HR background checking process that could have been much simplified with a what is now known as a Self Sovereign ID solution.
One of the candidates I wanted to hire was perfectly qualified, with very relevant experience and we "got on", in fact we even had mutual previous work colleagues. Bonus!
This seemed like a great match, so I asked HR to do their magic, and get him on-board. Once the offer was negotiated and accepted, the next phase of the process began - checking certificates and accreditations.
Now, this is where it all nearly went pear-shaped.
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Data Ownership and Verifiability
The gentlemen I wanted to hire was in his mid-fifties and had moved home many times, including several international moves. In those moves he'd lost his original certificates (I honestly can't imagine where my originals are?!). So the HR team asked him to get copies from his school.
Unfortunately, his school was demolished to make way for a housing estate many years ago, and there seemed to be no way to recover his qualification certificates. An unfortunate series of events that nearly led to me not being able to hire the ideal candidate.
So what were the flaws in the this process, and how can things be improved with technology?
The first issue with this particular process was the trust bestowed upon a paper certificate. Whilst it does depend on the specific issuing authority, education certificates are not the most secure documents. In fact, according to HEDD, nearly 50% of employers have been a victim of degree fraud.
The second, and biggest issue in this scenario was the need to verify with the original entity, the school.
This is only becoming a bigger problem as education moves to more digital, remote and decentralised models. Actually, many education institutes are dealing with this change of reality right now, in the middle of the COVID19 situation, with some very well known organisations now only issuing certifications electronically to avoid inadvertent transmission of infections.
How Can Blockchain Help In The Future of Education?
In today's digital world, we each own multiple online identities which are beholden by the platforms we decided to create them on - Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, even our banks and telecom providers.
The image above illustrates how I can use one of several identities to log into Medium.com.
In this model, the service I want to use has to ask a 3rd party to verify I am really who I am saying I am. That means the 3rd party most likely has to exchange personal data with the service I am signing up to, and if not, then will at least know I am signing up to that service.
That might not seem like a big deal, but these associations and micro-data points add up to billion dollar businesses built on our personal data. Plus, they become targets for scammers and hackers.
What if you didn't need to depend on anyone else to prove who you were, what qualifications or other attributes you attest. This is one of the goals of a blockchain-based concept called Self-Sovereign Identity, or "SSI".
Self Sovereign simply means that your data and identity remains your property, within your control. Once set up, your SSI holds documents from trusted 3rd parties in a trusted and auditable "wallet".
This trust and auditability is built on Blockchain, benefiting from its properties of immutability (meaning it can't be changed), and decentralised auditability (meaning the process of verifying and auditing the entries in it is done across many entities, not one).
So now, the "new thing" I am trying to register with only needs to trust my SSI, and I get to choose what the new service knows about me, without inadvertently giving away control and information to the 3rd party.
Therefore, documents being issued from the wallet can be trusted in the same way as a notarised document would be.
It is therefore imperative that any documents that are put into the wallet are themselves trusted and and verified by trusted sources.
SSI In Education
Self Sovereign ID could be used for proving identities, as the diagram above illustrates, but it goes way beyond this. It could be used to store, protect and share any personal information, from health records, payslips, credit ratings, career history and educational accomplishments.
Certificates of attendance, accomplishment and achievements can now be published by education institutions directly to a student's SSI wallet, allowing the student to directly provide trusted, accurate documents to other institutions or employers as needed.
This brings value to all parties:
Value to the User:
The user has one wallet where all their important documents are kept safe and secure. Since this wallet is a trusted source, when they share anything from it, it is trusted to be true and accurate without having to get another party involved.
Additionally, the user's data is more secure, and the wallet acts as a life-long record of their learning.
Value to the Receiver:
Since I only need to trust the SSI, instead of multiple third parties, the time (and cost) involved in verifying documents and IDs is reduced.
Fraud is also mitigated because every document is digitally signed with a verifiable audit trail all the way back to the issuer.
Value to the Issuer:
Since documents can now more easily be exchanged in a trusted manner across digital domains, the need for paper documents is reduced, and so too is the risk of brand-damaging counterfeits.
Additionally, the Issuer saves time and money by not having to validate and authenticate documents on a request-by-request basis.
Digitary are working to help students take control and ownership over their qualifications. They provide an online platform where organisations and institutions can publish student learning records and achievements, securely and privately, giving the student transparency and digital ownership.
Students can share these digitally certified records with other education institutions and employers without having to manage paper documents.
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Digitary - Building Trust and Transparency Between Education, Enterprise and Students
Digitary have currently issued over four million digitally verified documents from 100+ institutions for millions of learners in 135 countries.
Beyond providing verified documentation, the meta-data associated with these documents bring additional benefits, such as being able to pre-populate job application forms.
Earlier this year, Digitary partnered with the Canadian network for colleges, ARUCC, to enable the students of 273 Canadian colleges to digitally control and share their qualifications, and announced 1 million leaner records in Australia and New Zealand.
Bringing Blockchain into the Equation.
Digitary are well on the way to developing a blockchain based Self-Sovereign ID (SSI) solution. Partnering with leading SSI provider Evernym they are working to create solution a that further helps learners secure their lifetime learning and qualifications.
Watch the webinar below to find out more about how Digitary and Evernym are working together.