FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Who can use this blockchain-based platform?
Any university and organization that issues certificates and credentials can use the platform.
Why use a blockchain-based system?
Blockchains can be described as data structures with the following inherent attributes:
- Decentralized: The state of a blockchain is determined by a majority consensus of the networks’ stakeholders. Anyone can attempt to change the state but for success the majority of those invested in the blockchain’s longevity, need to agree that the new state is valid per the network’s rules.
- Immutable: Data can only be added; they cannot be altered or removed without majority consensus. When data are(is?) added, they are also timestamped. Every participant has a complete history of the data which is synchronized among the participants. The system is extremely fault-tolerant and the data stored are practically permanent during its history (or as long as there are some participants on the network).
- Transparent: In many cases, the process of adding new data entries as well as the data themselves are publicly available and anyone can review or access at any point of time.This isn’t a compromise to privacy though, as the data are encrypted and random users do not have access to them.
- Open: The network is open for anyone to participate, i.e. no barriers to entry.
- Secure: Strong cryptography ensures that a participant cannot change the state of other participants’ entries, or misrepresent themselves as another participant
Why use a blockchain-based platform for certificates?
Academic certificates have been issued in paper form throughout history by individual institutions. The process of issuing and validation has remained virtually the same through the centuries, even with the information revolution of the last decades; an institution awards the certificate to the recipient in paper form and in limited cases, perhaps in digital counterpart, and then keeps an internal record of the new certificate. However, several aspects of this antiquated process of issuance have unresolved problems . For example:
- Lost certificates: The recipient loses (or damages/destroys) the certificate. Recovery involves a paperwork process where the recipient applies to the institution for a reissuance of the certificate, where, if everything is in order, a new certificate is issued and sent to the recipient. This process is usually complex requiring authorization from several records, signatures from several parties including lost man-hours, as well as voluminous databases of student records. It is slow, long and burdensome but more importantly, it is impossible if the institution no longer exists.
- Certification validation: The recipient sends the certificate to a potential employer. The latter needs to validate the certificate’s authenticity to ensure that it was not falsified or modified in any way (both paper and digital certificates can be easily copied and modified). A process is required to validate paperwork, as in the above example, where the institution checks its internal records and gives a formal verification to the potential employer. Again, this process can take days or weeks (in case of formal letter verification) but it is also impossible if the institution no longer exists or the certificate was issued years ago. For large universities, this is also a problem of logistics as keeping track of their past students is often a manual process rife with archives of documents and low quality copies of the original credentials.
- Internal records lost or modified: Even if the institution still exists it is possible that the internal certification records are lost, damaged or destroyed (e.g. by human error, natural disaster) prohibiting validation and re-issuing of a certificate. They could even be manipulated/faked by human intervention.