Falsified academic degrees have long been a global problem. Fraudulent diplomas and certificates have always been used to either scam customers and investors or gain entry to a company for employment.
Institutions and companies have tried to resolve this by asking the individual for attestation from the university or college that has issued the diploma or certificate. This involves having the university or college confirm the documentation provided by an applicant to the company or institution through some form of communication, such as a seal, e-mail or phone call. The process of attestation varies, but all are either tedious, costly or prone to more falsification.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of the countries that enforces a strict process of attestation, especially foreign academic credentials. All companies require the certificate or diploma being notarized, getting it verified by the Education Department and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and having the UAE Embassy in the issuing country authenticate it before submitting it to the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation (MoFAIC).
Despite the strict attestation process in the UAE, the problem of fake degrees still remains. In fact, the Federal National Council (FNC) has created a proposal last year to punish anyone who uses fake academic credentials for employment with a fine amounting to up to a million dirhams and three to 24 months imprisonment.
With the UAE embracing blockchain and emerging technologies, it is not a surprise that the solution to this age-old problem has been found using blockchain technology. Dubai-based Smartworld, a leading UAE systems integrator, is utilizing blockchain to immutably record and authenticate academic credentials.
“Today, we have two major problems. The first one is that there are a lot of drive-thru universities who publish a lot of certificates, and unfortunately, some of those who use those certificates get into jobs where they are not very much qualified,” SmartWorld CEO Abdulqader Obaid Ali said.
“Further, there is one thing which is a global problem, not only locally to the UAE, and it is the attestation of a degree, to ensure the authenticity of where it came from and that the content is there. We saw the blockchain as a solution to this problem when we looked into it and further, we aligned this solution with the vision of our leadership in the UAE,” Obaid Ali added.
Academic records on blockchain is the most efficient solution to the attestation problem in the desert nation. It also resolves the issue of non-operational universities or colleges not being able to provide attestation. By storing all academic records on the blockchain, all educational documents live on forever. Applying for jobs is also made easier without having to go through the tedious attestation process.
“When you graduate, you have that degree instantly. Further, when you go and work, you can present that certificate instantly. Therefore, getting into a job is much faster and one thing you can be sure that once it is in the blockchain, it is secure. There is no need for attestation,” Obaid Ali explained.
And academic records on blockchain is not only being developed in Dubai. The University of Sharjah has also recently partnered with Bitcoin Association, the Switzerland-based global industry organization pushing for the adoption of the BSV blockchain, to develop a similar academic certification and accreditation platform.
“We are very excited and pleased with the partnership with a premier institution in the UAE such as the University of Sharjah to develop an innovative solution that can help current and former students in the UAE and across the world to enable fast verification of their academic and professional credentials, plus prevent fake certificates circulation,” Bitcoin Association Founding President Jimmy Nguyen said about the partnership.
The BSV blockchain, the largest scalable public blockchain, is already able to complete 4GB data blocks and process up to 100,000 transactions per second (tps) at an average fee of $0.00105 per transaction. Most recently, the BSV blockchain has surpassed 10 million transactions in a single day.
“We have chosen our project to be implemented on BSV Blockchain due to its powerful features and capabilities, i.e., its massive scaling power, significant data capacity, low transaction fees and its public transparency, which makes it the perfect choice for the used case for our study,” Dr. Mohamed Al Hemairy of the University of Sharjah, who is heading the project with Dr. Manar Abu Talib, shared
“The integrated system will not only improve the authenticity of a wide array of certifications and documentations, but it will also reduce risks of invalid certificates via the immutable properties of the blockchain. BSV Blockchain will be used as a public Blockchain ‘Open Source’ that has thousands of peers distributed all over the world which validate the transactions and store the ledger in a decentralized environment,” Dr. Abu Talib added.
The University of Sharjah will launch a multi-stage research and development program that focuses on designing the framework for the validation and authentication of academic records and certificates on the BSV blockchain. A prototype proof-of-concept application will then be developed once the framework is completed.
“Once the Proof-of-Concept is completed, the second phase of the study is to establish a joint venture to commercialize the research outcomes by launching a startup company within the University to provide the service to public and private universities,” Dr. Al Hemairy revealed.
The United Arab Emirates is rapidly becoming a hub for blockchain innovation and adoption. The wide use of blockchain technology across many different industries can be seen during the upcoming BSV Global Blockchain Convention at the Grand Hyatt, Dubai on May 24 to 26.
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