We understand that blockchain technology might be confusing to many of you, so we have asked David Novák, our IT Manager and the man behind this project, to give a brief explanation of the technology, and explain the benefits and possible downsides of blockchain diplomas.
While paper diplomas might still be a matter of prestige and tradition, our younger graduates need something more practical in their increasingly-digital lives
Could you give us a brief description of the Blockchain technology?
I conceptualize blockchain exactly as the name indicates – a chain of blocks consisting of useful information, usually transactions grouped together. In addition, each block also contains something like a cryptographic signature of the previous block. This creates the chaining effect, ensuring that it is almost impossible to change the already-existing blocks in the chain – the longer it is, the more complex the mathematical problem it poses. In addition to its resistance to modification, the most distinctive feature of blockchain is its decentralized distributed nature. The chain is saved in a form of a distributed ledger across a large number of computers (called nodes) connected on a peer-to-peer basis, and this makes it unbreakable, with no single point of failure or bottleneck. Blockchain is also a matter of trust and transparency. In the case of a public blockchain, everyone is able to read the data but not able to alter it, which allows for very easy auditing of transactions. Moreover, there is no central authority in control – the whole network adheres to a protocol with a set of rules, and the principle of reaching a consensus in order to add each new block.
Why do you think this technology has a future?
Blockchain has a future because it has the past. I mean this literally – all previous transactions are kept in a blockchain that is by design secure, transparent, easily verifiable, and independent of any central authority. This is a unique and valuable concept which perfectly matches the trends in our quickly-evolving digital world. Of course, there is an ongoing discussion about where exactly the future lies, and even though it might not necessarily be in cryptocurrencies, there are many other successful use cases outside the world of finance. For the field of education, I think the future of blockchain diplomas alone is very promising, and we could easily go a few steps further and dip into micro-credentials or micro-certifications via blockchain as another emerging trend of competency-based education.
What are the benefits of diplomas issued by means of blockchain technology?
A university diploma issued digitally via blockchain employs all of the inherent advantages of the technology. Compared to a simple scanned copy of a paper diploma, it cannot be forged, and is easily traceable and verifiable by anybody, while staying secure. In a world without a central diploma verification authority, blockchain diplomas are a great tool to increase student and workforce mobility.
Another benefit is that the blockchain diploma that we issue via the BCdiploma service is essentially a hyperlink. While paper diplomas might still be a matter of prestige and tradition, our younger graduates need something more practical in their increasingly-digital lives. A hyperlink is easy to share on social or professional networks, and even if they download it as a file, it contains a QR code which any university or potential employer can easily open to verify the authenticity of the diploma.
Are there any downsides of this technology?
The most concerning issue about blockchain in general is its inherent large-scale inefficiency. To put it simply, imagine that all computers participating in a massive cryptocurrency blockchain must perform exactly the same operations and store the same copy of the entire database. If we translated this into the human world, we would have millions of people around the world writing the same book, word by word, at the same time. And from this arise other associated issues, such as extremely high energy consumption, and the resulting problems with long-term scalability. However, if we limit ourselves to issuing university diplomas and certificates only, these high-level conceptual issues seem to be rather theoretical.
What other fields can benefit from blockchain technology?
Once we look past the world of cryptocurrencies, the potential for applying this technology is vast. A good example is the healthcare sector, with all its recent security breaches. Blockchain could fill this gap by securing sensitive patient data while making it easier to share records across all stakeholders. As a former student of logistics, I can also appreciate how this technology could shine in supply chain management, where increased trust and end-to-end visibility between trading partners could be a key factor. Then, imagine blockchain applied specifically to the food chain – every piece of food we buy could have an easily traceable history that we could safely trust. Another trending concept built on blockchain is smart contracts – automation based on certain "if/when...then" rules is something that could benefit almost all industries, I believe.
All diplomas are issued by the UNYP Registrar office. In case of questions, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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