Re-inventing the wheel through blockchain

Malta is the first to do this, and other countries are quickly realising the enormous potential, and competitive edge, of all this

Twenty-five years ago, before the dawn of the internet and high-end computing, a person’s CV looked very simple. You might have had a degree and had started climbing the career ladder. People spent years in the same job, doing the same thing, with very little in terms of change. In my day, in the newspaper business, things rarely changed. The machines were better after some time, but they were also pretty much the same. Just a little more precise, a little neater and a little faster every few years or so.

Then the internet came along and, with it, a technological revolution that was to change the world. It changed the way we worked, the way we lived and the way we interacted. In the past, what you learnt at University didn’t change the year after you left. The people refining Amazon’s Alexa or building some pretty exciting VR technologies did not learn them from school. The way we educate ourselves and the way we present that education is changing as well, because people are mixing and matching multiple educational programmes at a relatively early age.

The model we use to certify educational programmes is stuck in medieval times. You spend four years doing an undergraduate programme and have just a paper certificate to show for it. It ends up locked in some drawer.

When a person lists a degree on a CV, the process is based on trust. Some employers do verify, but many don’t. The issue further complicates itself if you have many certificates in the mix. You have your O’Levels, your undergraduate degree, your Masters and a few programmes you may have followed during a previous job. So, you have a stack of papers and you’re expected to go around with them during interviews. And how does anyone even verify a paper document anyhow? Do they look at the stamp or how serious the calligraphy work is? As I said, it’s all a very stale process. And in the age of driverless cars and digital assistants that can buy flight tickets for you, it is all very yesteryear.

Which is why we’re going to change this. In January 2017, the Education Ministry signed an MOU with Learning Machine to explore the feasibility of blockchain credential pilots and the following September we started the pilot. As we speak Malta is the first nation-state to have graduates in national institutions with blockchain certification. In the coming months, the same will apply to school-leaving certificates, competence certificates for disadvantaged groups (such as refugees) and licences for institutions accredited by the National Commission for Further and Higher Education.

At the end of this scholastic year, all fifth formers in state schools will get their school-leaving certification on blockchain as well. Thousands of young people will have a simpler, safer and much more efficient process to access their certification. If other educational institutions or employers would like to verify these certificates it takes only a few touches on one’s phone. It’s really that easy. More importantly, these young people will start accumulating different certificates in one place for ease of use. In a world where they will be expected to experience lifelong learning, and be lifelong recipients of different accreditations, this is going to be very important.

It’s self-sovereign, trust-worthy, transparent and impossible to destroy because it’s not stored on a database in some government building.

Malta is the first to do this, and other countries are quickly realising the enormous potential, and competitive edge, of all this. We must continue building on this very exciting technology and find different ways to amplify its value further.