Malta’s Government Trials the Blockchain to Track Academic Certificates

Blockchain

Malta’s government is to trial the blockchain technology to track academic certificates, according to the Ministry for Education and Employment in Malta.

The ministry has signed an agreement with the Learning Machine Technologies to create a prototype platform to securely store and share academic records. It will also enable holders to prove that they belong to them, according to a press release.

Through the blockchain, employers and others can instantly verify that a credential is authentic. This then cuts down on time and money. Furthermore, it reduces the risk of fraud and helps to protect a brand while giving full control of records to owners.

Evarist Bartolo, Minister for Education and Employment in Malta, said:

“For the first time, Maltese learners have a way to keep track of their lifelong achievements in one place, with the flexibility to share them with whomever they choose at no cost.”

Adding:

“Maltese businesses will find that hiring workers with the right qualifications has gotten much easier. This is a win/win for Malta, whose skilled workforce is among the primary drivers of its economic success.”

The system was built using Blockcerts open standard. This was developed by Learning Machine Technologies with the MIT Lab in 2016.

Blockcerts allows users to verify, receive, store and share their academic certificates on the blockchain. Additionally, the Blockcert remains verifiable even if the institution ceases to operate.

In the PR, it states that this prevents:

“…the loss of verifiable records in case of war, natural disasters, and economic crises.”

Blockcerts can also be transferred to other software that employs the Blockcerts standards.

Natalie Smolenski, vice president of Business Development for Learning Machine Technologies, stated that:

“The world is changing. Students and workers are more mobile than ever before in human history, regularly changing schools and jobs, crossing borders, and remotely working across jurisdictions.”

She added:

“The importance of providing individuals with a seamless way to translate their education and skills into opportunities in the workforce and lifelong learning, wherever in the world they go, cannot be overstated.”

The release indicates that this is a world first for a national government to test this specific application of the blockchain.

Malta Embraces the Blockchain

This news comes at a time when the country is working at establishing itself as an international hub for the technology.

Back in May it was reported that Malta was stepping into the digital race. At the time, the nation was either considering working with the blockchain or determining ways it could get started with it.

Since then, however, progress with the technology has advanced. So much so, that in May, Malta’s government approved the first draft of a national strategy to promote the distributed ledger.

At the time, Joseph Muscat, Malta’s prime minister, explained that embracing the technology was high on the government’s agenda.

He said:

“We must be on the frontline in embracing this crucial innovation, and we cannot just wait for others to take action and copy them. We must be the ones that others copy.”

He added that he looked forward to seeing the technology applied within the land and national health registries.

“Malta can be a global trail-blazer in this regard.”

Malta’s First Bitcoin ATM

In addition to working at becoming a blockchain international hub, Malta is also opening its arms to bitcoin.

Despite claims that the country isn’t ready for the digital currency, Malta saw the arrival of its first bitcoin ATM in July.

Installed in Sliema and operated by Venture Trading, it offers users the option to convert bitcoin to euro, among other services.

Local startup Ivaja is focused on making Malta a ‘Bitcoin Island.’ It was this startup that introduced the machine to the country through a crowdfunding campaign. According to Ivaja, there is ‘huge potential’ for the country within the cryptocurrency market.

The startup said:

“We have a very active bitcoin community which is growing rapidly. There are many finance companies based on Malta. And also the iGaming industry is very interested in bitcoin. On top of that, it’s also a great chance for Malta’s decision makers to create the right environment for a flourishing economy.”

However, shortly after the installation of Malta’s bitcoin ATM, the country’s regulator issued a warning. According to Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) it doesn’t approve. As a result, it issued a warning to potential users, stating:

“Unlike traditional money, acceptance of payment in virtual currency depends entirely on the voluntary consent of the recipient. Furthermore providers of services in relation to virtual currencies are currently neither regulated by law nor authorised by the MFSA.”

However, it’s clear to see that these comments are in stark contrast to the country’s prime minister thinking. It remains to be seen how the country will continue to work at adopting the currency. Considering that the country is keen to become a bitcoin island, this is particularly pertinent seeing as the MFSA is against it.

Regulatory Sandbox

Despite this, though, Malta is pushing ahead with its plans. So much so, that the government is considering a trial to determine how a digital currency might impact its economy.

In September, the Times of Malta reported that a cryptocurrency would be introduced within a ‘controlled framework.’ The idea is to ‘test proposed controls and legislation but without there being any bearing on the wider local economy.’

The ‘sandbox test’ was proposed by the Malta Gaming Authority. It would determine the strengths and weaknesses of the cryptocurrency. Not only that, but it will look at the threats and opportunities it may present to Malta.

A spokesman said:

“We would like to be the first country to regulate cryptocurrency and blockchain.”

If it proves fruitful it could boost Malta’s domestic policy on the blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. Further details on the trial have not been released. However, while critics remain, it’s obvious that the country is keen to push this agenda. It remains to be seen what results are produced from the trial and where it goes from there.

Featured image from Shutterstock.