Digital ID Project in Ethiopia Will Help 3,600 Schools Eliminate Fraud


Cases of fraud, fake degrees, and fake credentials have been rampant in Ethiopia. Last April alone, the government identified over 200,000 fake degree certificates. Now, it is betting big on blockchain technology to end the menace.

In 2021, it signed a partnership with research and engineering firm Input Output Global (IOG) to implement a digital student identity program using the Cardano blockchain network. The first phase of the program started with a digital identity, driving for students and teachers as part of the larger blockchain-driven agenda being implemented in the country.

John O’Connor, the director of African operations at IOG, who shifted from London to Addis Ababa to lead the project, tells Nodo News that the initiative will help solve the digital identity crisis that contributes to these vices.

Africa’s Best Blockchain Use Case

“Before settling on the partnership with the Ethiopian government, we looked at several others. Often people use blockchain to raise money or liquidity. But we realize that fraud, fake credentials and fake degrees are a big issue in the country,” he says. “And it felt quite appropriate to deploy the technology in the education sector based on the Prime Minister’s comments on these issues.”

Blockchain has become the most promising technology in addressing most of challenges Africa faces. These are poor governance, porous health systems, broken agricultural value chains, centralized finance, and botched education systems. But at the center of credibility in all these sectors lies verifiable digital identity.

In the deal between IOG and the Ethiopian government, the goal is to create a national database of the country’s students’ and teachers’ credentials using a decentralized digital identity solution.

How it Works
The digital IDs are used to store the students and teachers educational records. In the long run, the government is hopeful that it will address the vices that beleaguer the country’s education system.

Due to its transparent nature and its immutability, blockchain can be adopted to check the fraud and fake degree cases.

The technology is tamper-proof and can not be manipulated. That makes it a safer, more reliable data management system compared to paper-based systems.

Currently, O’Connor says, the students digital identity and credentialing program in which IOG partners with the Ethiopian government, is in its pilot state and will be fully rolling out in coming months.

“The Ethiopian government is very much supportive of the program. We collaborate with the country’s education ministry in practically all aspects,” says O’Connor. IOG is contracted to design, build, and maintain the solution on the Cardano public blockchain platform. “The benefits and features that the program brings in – including verifiable degrees, and digitization of the entire workflow – are all invaluable for the government.”

Over 3,600 Schools to Benefit From the Program

IOG’s original contract with the government targets five million students both in primary and secondary schools across 3,680 schools.

In due course, O’Connor says, it is expected to expand to higher learning education institutions such as universities and reach up to nine million students in Ethiopia’s education system.

Up to 750,000 teachers will also access the system, and will be using their digital IDs to create and store records. It will also enable them to track students’ academic performance.

The program, O’Connor notes, will largely rely on Ethiopia’s Ministry of Education running a full network node. Schools will use a light client to get access to this node, which runs on the Cardano blockchain system. “It works hand-in-hand with the governments’ unique identity number system.”

This system, which O’Connor hopes will one day be adopted by other African countries, will give all students a digital identity that can track the progress they make in their education and careers.

While Web2 aims to connect people, Web3 combines data with trust. It gives users more control over the underlying infrastructure.

“Web3 provides not just the reason to build, and the ways to do so, but also provides the means,” O’Connor says. He notes that there still is need for venture funding for startups across Africa to exploit the technology’s full potential.

Originally published on Nodo