Although the technology ‘trigger’ for moving to digital certificates is not very complex or advanced (with or without blockchain). The bigger issue is social acceptance, the hype and noise surrounding blockchain does not help either but the biggest obstacle is tradition – ‘the way things are done round here’. This is one of the reasons we are not proposing to replace paper certificates but instead complement them with digital versions. People actually like to have a physical token of their achievements from an official source. Even the providers of MOOCs recognise this and offer people who complete an online course a fancy paper certificate.
This is a classic example of culture change and needs to be handled carefully. We discuss these factors in the demonstrator. Although the UK is one of the the most intensely digital economies in the word there are areas of life that are resistant to digital solutions due to their complexity – educational and health are two examples. When proposing digital certificates it makes sense to stress their benefits (speeding up job applications, on-boarding and generating digital CVs with certificates that have the same trust as paper qualifications). But we also need to be aware of the sensitivities around such a change and the potential for confusion from prospective users and misinformation from media and political commentators. The current education and qualification system does enjoy a large degree of trust from the public and that is symbolised in the paper certificates (a bit like paper money). Trust is a delicate commodity and once lost can be hard to regain. Another challenge in implementing digital certificates is the long term nature of the task – they have to last and be available for several decades to be useful.