Storing and Verifying Documents using Blockchain Technology

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The world has gone digital, the traditional way of doing things has slowly faded away. Transactions, businesses, employment, hiring, education, and so many others are now done online. The rise of this digital era, as good as it may seem has a major problem which is — how to protect our information from malicious attacks.

Nigeria is one of the fastest developing African countries with the largest economy and population. Despite having setbacks in the last 3 industrial revolutions, it is highly noteworthy to have adapted fast to the technological change in this 4th industrial revolution (4IR) as producers of technology instead of passive consumers.

One of the most powerful technologies of the 4IR is Blockchain Technology which is fast developing in Nigeria. It is the silent power engine that is necessary for progress in this generation that favors large data processing and storage vulnerable to manipulations and cyber-attacks. A blockchain is a powerful tool that can be used to ensure processes run smoothly without doubt, manipulation, friction or data theft.

Problems faced with storing documents traditionally

The current way of issuing and verifying certificates and receipts has been quite ineffective as evidenced in the number of counterfeit and forged documents cases in the country. Unfortunately, in today’s world, fake documents are epidemic. As most of you know there is no trouble in getting fake documents. As the fake documents precisely look like the originals, it is cumbersome for the layman to identify the real and duplicate. Service providers have to burn through millions to verify the documents of candidates.

This is not a Nigerian issue alone, as is evidenced by Tanzanian President John Magufuli’s sacking in late April 2017 of nearly 10,000 civil servants for having fake educational certificates.

Coming down to the academic institutions, Certificates distributed in colleges or universities are mostly in the form of hard copy. Whenever applicants apply for a job at any public or private sector they have to produce those hard copies, while the organizations have to verify all certificates manually which is a very time-consuming process. The problems faced with the system can be summarized into the following:

Forgery: The current system gives room for certificate and receipt forgery since there are no ways to verify the authenticity of the certificates presented. The ways that exist take longer processes or work long after the forged certificates must have been used.

Theft, Loss or Malicious Damage: Certificates issued by institutions are prone to lose or theft. It is also subject to malicious attacks. We can see this clearly in corp members trying to laminate their results immediately after receipt because they know recovering it after its loss is sometimes more stressful than the process it took to get it.

Difficulty in Recovery: Misplaced, lost or stolen certificates in most cases has no means of recovery or the process of recovery are too tedious and involves lots of paperwork and payments.

The key issues in certificate verification generally are in storage, retrieval, and access to data. Blockchain technology provides a common shared platform from where to store, retrieve and access documents. The very nature of the technology is in the distributed, shared, open ledgers, verifiable by all. The Blockchain is a public ledger used to record all the transactions in a decentralized data log rather than a physical ledger or a single database. While blockchain technology was originally used to create cryptocurrencies, nowadays blockchain is being promoted to different areas like trading, file storage, payment services, identity management, financial exchanges, medical records management, education and more.

Document verification is a common phenomenon as far as humans are concerned. They are bound to verify their documents in every walk of life, be it a new birth, marriage, court proceedings, employment purposes or any new step in their life journey. This can effectively be done via blockchain technology. Today, document verification is no more strenuous and also immune to faulty representations using blockchain technology.

With blockchain technology, the documents to be verified are hashed and a cryptographic generated key is stored on the blockchain network instead of the digital copy of the document.

If a university decides to store its certificates or carry out it’s certification on the blockchain technology, the first thing to do will be to convert these documents to a hash code using cryptography. The code is further stored on the blockchain network. The hash code generated resembles is a copy of the document but represented as a string of codes. These string of codes act as a key for the document. When the user presents this document elsewhere, the code must remain the same as stored in the blockchain for it to be valid.

Imagine a recruiter trying to hire someone for his service and he asks for his certificates for verification. With blockchain, the recruiter can achieve this by slotting the key generated from hashing the content of the document into the school’s portal or a verification app which contains the database of all their legit graduated students. If the hash matches the details stored on blockchain by the school he claimed to have graduated from, the degree certificates produced are genuine.

Advantages of Using Blockchain technology to store and Verify Documents.

1. Document verification on blockchain technology eliminates the third party thus limiting the cost of transactions on the network. This essentially saves costs.

2. Certificates are placed on a distributed ledger so that people can have access to information anytime, anywhere. Under blockchain, the documents are securely placed that only authorized persons can access using their private keys.

3. Blockchain technology stores data in a form that cannot be altered. This is done through cryptography which involves encryption of data using a hash function. So data becomes unalterable. It is practically impossible to hack.

4. Companies are sure they’re only hiring the best, without the hassles of spending many hours and millions of dollars validating all the prospective employees’ diplomas and their work experiences.

5. Universities, colleges, and other educational institutions will no longer need to spend hundreds of hours confirming their alumni degrees and study paths, as it’s the case today.

6. Meritocracy will reign, providing level-ground opportunities for all. Every candidate is correctly assessed for his/her real qualifications, talents, and experience — not via falsifications of certificates or fake recommendations. Institutions and employers can solve the “Fake diplomas” problem and promote Lifelong Learn with verified certificates anywhere in the world on the blockchain.

The increasing number of certificate falsifications is alarming. There is a pressing need to have a verifiable platform allowing a completely distributed, costly feasible and trustable database. An institution that incorporates a system of credibility gives people enough confidence in its operations. As society becomes increasingly digital, a better form of digital identification is necessary and contemporary forms of authentication and verification are becoming increasingly insecure and insufficient for the world we are living in.

… among other things, I Write, Right and Wright

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