Protecting qualifications in a turbulent world.
The last five years have been a wake-up call for those of us who had become used to ever-available systems and reliable processes. Even before Covid struck in early 2020, some companies had experienced malware and ransom-ware attacks . Many users discovered retail and banking systems were not always instantly accessible, and some healthcare organisation were forced to resort to paper back-ups, when poor maintenance of computer systems allowed malicious players to block access to patient records.
As the IT industry moved to better protect critical systems, Covid-19 arrived and office staff who could work remotely, were sent to work from home. Remote access was hurriedly implemented and often did not cover all functionality.
Against this backdrop, I joined a new employer in early 2021 and the recruitment process included verifying my degree with my former college. It quickly became clear that verification was not possible because the student records system had suffered a malware attack and could not be accessed at that time. Student records officers were working from home due to Covid and had no access to the physical records archive.
I was lucky that my employer accepted my paper certificate until university staff returned to their office later in the summer.
Civil and political disruption can also prevent verification of qualifications. The war in Ukraine and the resulting sanctions on Russia show how verification of qualifications gained in either country may prove impossible. The same is true of Syria, Afghanistan and other countries worldwide. Refugees seeking work in other countries will struggle to prove their credentials while their former colleges are off-line, unstaffed or otherwise uncontactable. How many will have had the opportunity or foresight to carry with them, documents proving their education and skills?
And homelessness isn’t only a function of war. It can arise in many other circumstances, and those affected are less likely to have access to their proofs of qualifications when they need them most. A pre-verified digital certificate that cannot be lost, damaged, stolen or erased is of obvious value.
In such turbulent times, there is benefit for institutions, governments and individuals, in pre-verifying qualifications and storing those records independently in the cloud; for colleges seeking to reduce cost and workload, for governments who need skilled and deployable workers, and for individuals, the continued ability to earn a living.
The provision of digital credentials has so universal a benefit that all institutions should re-evaluate how we award, verify and maintain qualifications.