Ethiopia integrating IOG's Cardano based system to manage student records

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IOG, the main company behind the creation of the Cardano network, could not wait to break the news. An official media livestream is scheduled for Thursday, April 29th, 2021, but they leaked this exciting preview on Twitter two days ahead of time:

“We couldn’t make you wait until Thursday! We’re announcing our partnership with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Education to create a blockchain-based national ID and attainment recording system. Rolling out to 5M students, this is the world’s largest blockchain deployment”

The deployment will be based on Atalla PRISM, the announcement said. According to the company’s blog, “Atala Prism is a decentralized identity system that enables people to own their personal data and interact with organizations seamlessly, privately, and securely.”

The integration will store IDs and student achievement records for about 5 Million students, 750,000 educators and over 3.5 thousand institutions across the country. This will include kindergarten, elementary, and secondary schools. The system will also be used to manage transfers and dropouts. With student IDs and achievement records on the blockchain, it will be easy to pair data to a Learning Management System to create dynamic, personalized curriculums.

Teachers and students will be issued internet-connected tablets, from which students will be able to access their records anytime, anywhere. No more having to call your university to get an official transcript, which can cost as much as $50 dollars in the United States! Employers and third parties will be able to access the system to verify student education. Having blockchain verification and removing third parties will help end the practice of certificate and degree selling, which has seen a rapid increase over the last decade.

Some immediate questions come to mind that probably require more than 140 characters to answer. We are looking forward to the full announcement on Thursday for more details. Meanwhile, here are things we hope to learn more about:

We know that Atala uses the metadata functionality provided by the Cardano blockchain specs. What isn’t clear is whether the Ethiopia system will be making use of the existing global Cardano blockchain network. Or, will IOG launch a new network powered by privately run nodes for Ethiopia?

Given that teachers can append to student records, do students have the power to prevent this - say, when they graduate? Are entries to records permission-based? Do students have to approve and sign each entry before it is recorded to the blockchain? In other words, at what point do students actually gain full ownership of their data?

Whatever the answer to these questions, this announcement and pilot program is an exciting development for the entire industry. It is an historic landmark, on our way to future digital inclusion and equal opportunity for all.

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If you live in Ethiopia, how do you feel about this news? For everyone else: How do you feel about digital diplomas? How do you feel about the prospect never paying "official" transcript fees?

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