Education is a crucial factor in a country's economic development, but despite its importance, it is generally underfunded and deprioritised. DirectEd is a group that wants to use blockchain technology to support scholars in developing countries. DirectEd enables donations for Education powered by the Cardano Blockchain, by combining blockchain transactions, smart contracts, decentralized identifiers and verifiable credentials. These enable a transparent, secure, and low-cost method of sending conditional peer-to-peer donations to students across the globe. By processing donations directly through the Cardano network, and distributing them to individuals verified with DIDs, obstacles such as mistrust, fraud and administrative costs are greatly reduced. The hope is that donors will be more inclined to participate in supporting promising young scholars when they have clear, end-to-end visibility to how their money is used, and the impact it has.
To kickstart their venture, DirectEd turned to Cardano’s Project Catalyst for seed funding. DirectEd has had three funded proposals so far.
Their focus is on regions where students are not able to study due to lack of the needed resources. Their vision is, “to build a world in which any person regardless of their draw in the lottery of life, can realize their full potential.” DirectEd identifies high schools in low-income areas and donors that are able to donate. In Ethiopia, these schools have been onboarded to Cardano’s Atala PRISM “decentralized identifier” (DID) system that combines identity, value and governance solutions in a single platform. In Kenya, they help schools become issuers of verifiable credentials and help students set up Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs). They link those DIDs to Cardano wallets, preparing the students to receive scholarships. DirectEd specifies a smart contract for each high school. The smart contracts do four things:
- Specify the threshold for scholarship eligibility
- Randomly choose scholarship winners if the number of eligible students exceeds funds available
- Specify the total size of each scholarship
- Specify progress requirements needed for the release of the next portion of the scholarship.
Donors get to pledge donation amounts to one of many smart contracts, each representing a high school. Donors receive an NFT that is minted by DirectEd, that can be used to prove that they have donated and unlock access to a progress-tracking page for the specific cohort they donated to. High schools issue credentials, containing grades, to Decentralized Identifiers belonging to students. A student can then apply by sharing this verifiable credential with the smart contract. Once the scholarship application window is closed, a randomisation amongst eligible students decides the scholarship winners if the number of eligible students exceeds the funds available. Students register at university and the registrar issues a credential to the student’s DID. Students share their proof of registration to the smart contract, which triggers the first scholarship disbursement. Further disbursements are similarly conditioned on evidence of successful progress as evidenced by verifiable credentials issued by the university or other education provider. If scholarship students fail to satisfy some of the conditions within the pre-specified time frame written in the smart contract, whatever funds remain are returned to the donor addresses.
DirectEd has partnered with Educational Institutions through informal discussions in Kenya and Ethiopia. In Kenya, they have partnered with Kagumo High School and Kenyatta University which are both in Nairobi. In Ethiopia, they have partnered with Kotebe University of Education, Addis Ababa and Kotebe University of Education Menelik. They have also partnered with Technology suppliers such as Kotani pay which offers a crypto to mobile money off-ramp in Africa, Gero wallet which is a crypto wallet and Proofspace which offers verifiable credentials issuance solutions.
DirectEd is positively impacting the lives of students and we hope to see more projects like these being proposed. To learn more on DirectEd and how you can support their project, visit their website on https://directed.dev/.