While Dubai prepares to become the first city fully powered by Blockchain by 2020, the British University in Dubai (BUiD) was a pioneer in the adoption of the technology being the first in the country and third in the world to offer a digital, blockchain degree in 2017 in an attempt to go completely paperless by next year.
According to the official website of the BUiD, “The University’s vision is to be recognized and supported as Dubai’s premier resource and focus for the reflective pursuit, inclusive accessibility, effective transfer and liberal application of scientific, academic and professional knowledge.”
Being the first research-based university in the region, its mission is to create knowledge and educate knowledge workers in the UAE through its advances Masters and Doctoral degree programs. The collaboration between the BUiD Dubai Centre for Risk and Innovation (DCRI) and the University of Nicosia via BLOCK.CO, has played a central role in the project due to the Cypriot university’s forefront involvement with verifiable academic certifications in the blockchain since 2014.
We spoke with Dr. Maria Papadaki, Managing Director of DCRI and Assistant Professor at The British University in Dubai to understand the pivotal role of blockchain technology in the adoption of encrypted degrees concept by BUiD and the UAE.
“With the launch of DCRI at BUiD our goal is to bring the latest research, training, and innovation to Dubai utilizing the latest technologies, such as Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Cyber Security, and Risk Management to name a few. Our Digital Degree using Blockchain Technology is our first project to implement these technologies and is done in collaboration with the University of Nicosia, the world leader in Blockchain education and applications. We are currently exploring additional opportunities to bring about Innovation to various Governmental and non-Governmental projects within the UAE and internationally.”
Dr. Papadaki, can you explain how Digital Degrees work in practical terms?
BUiD provides electronic authentication of its Degrees (Undergraduate, Masters, and PhD) via an online verification tool found on its website. All certificates have their fingerprint also added to Bitcoin’s blockchain, a decentralized and distributed digital ledger, providing security and immutability and offering users (e.g. potential employers) an immediate, secure, and digital authentication of certificates.
What are the main benefits of using the system?
The main purpose is to tackle fraudulent activities related to the presentation of fake credentials, which is the main issue even in today’s technologically powered infrastructures. With the usage of verifiable credentials in the blockchain, fraud is no longer an option and all transactions are extremely secure, reliable, fast with the guarantee of an authentic and immutable ledger. Moreover, it makes the process of presenting academic credentials much easier. Instead of going through long procedures to request credentials and wait days, weeks to obtain them, students can simply forward a timestamped and verified PDF and create a fast transaction. Also, it cuts costs related to staff required for the process.
How many certificates have been issued so far to graduates?
By the end of December, we will have been able to backdate all degrees and the total amount of credentials residing on the blockchain will be around one thousand.
How has the collaboration with the University of Nicosia and BLOCK.CO worked for you so far?
It’s been an important partnership because they are well-established brands and institutions that have extensive knowledge of blockchain and their high caliber staff has been extremely useful and professional. The trust factor has been essential. Many startups fail after one year of activity, we did not want to have to deal with such an issue, therefore, partnering with the University of Nicosia and BLOCK.CO gave us the assurance you would expect from a reputable large organization.
Recently, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by the British University in Dubai, the Dubai Blockchain Center, and the University of Nicosia. The memorandum is aimed at further promoting blockchain technology through training courses, workshops, conferences, educational programs, and research and also enhances the collaboration between academic institutions and organizations in fields related to blockchain.
Clearly international collaborations are extremely valuable in the promotion of blockchain technology. Are you looking to expand partnerships with other international academic institutions in the future?
Yes, we believe it’s necessary to include as many universities as possible in order to make the system more valuable, inclusive, and efficient. Initially, we are promoting it to all other universities here in Dubai with the aim to expand to other institutions globally.
How do you see blockchain technology evolving in the future for governments and organizations alike?
Blockchain is a necessity nowadays to run processes more easily and smoothly, to cut costs, avoid fraud, and increase reputation. This is true for organizations and governments also. Only by embracing innovation can the institutions survive and become more efficient. The government of Dubai has done a great job in pioneering the technology on this level and applying it to its administration and we are happy to have followed suit and have been a part of it.
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