Ilya Nikiforov: Blockchain to rid education system of chaos

Interviewer: Blockchain Conference St. Petersburg (BCSPb)

Speaker: Ilya Nikiforov (I.N.)

BCSPb: Hello, Ilya. Based on the presentation of DISCIPLINA, it's becoming clear that this is a blockchain platform for the TeachMePlease educational project. However, it seems to do quite well without the platform. So, how will you benefit from blockchain?

I.N.: We have involved blockchain from the very start. Facing education sector challenges first hand, in particular the absence of single resource allowing to find an appropriate course, I have decided to take its development into my own hands. Analyzing the education situation, I have realized that there are a lot of other critical issues to be solved as well: a post-course certificate doesn't bring anything to the table, and the academic training value is imminently decreasing. Life is full of examples where a person obtaining a degree in Economics works in construction or any other sector. Young people don’t see a direct correlation between good education and high income. It is too easy now to look like somebody you are not, having a diploma of the wellknown educational establishment.

Nowadays, a diploma does not describe a person as a specialist. I am an employer and, truly speaking, I don’t divide potential employees into graduates and nongraduates. We decide whether to hire a person or not based on long interviews and test assignments. To me, the current problem is not that people fail to apply knowledge obtained in universities but that it is quite difficult for them to prove the value of this knowledge.

Analyzing this situation, I have realized that something should be changed. I created a prototype of the perfect world in my head with the ‘true-to-fact CV’ system including the full information about a person: from a nursery school to a job and even more. It would be a kind of electronic passport, containing every record and every assessment, where nothing could be substituted or corrected. Such thoughts have resulted in developing DISCIPLINA blockchain. It will allow to create the so-called person’s scoring. On the one hand, it sounds weird and reminds movies where one monitors every human step; but on the other hand, the whole world is moving towards this direction, and we have already been ‘estimated’ far and wide. However, education is a huge sector, which digitalization can be very beneficial.

BCSPb: How can TeachMePlease blockchain help a common user?

I.N.: Blockchain guarantees 100% validity of records and has credibility. Besides, the system based on blockchain technologies is decentralized. Such a platform could be a liaison that will return the value to educational processes and give the possibility to accumulate them. Modern people regularly take certain courses and improve their skills, but all verifications disappear, as they are just papers.

Blockchain allows to model a situation where one can find a job quite easier because of higher credibility in person’s educational history. It will restore students’ belief in things they do. There will be a real tool for monetizing received education.

According to our concept, everything won’t be limited to graduation. A human mark on blockchain will be continued, as people will keep studying at work instead of educational establishment. Their successes will be recorded, continuing the scoring process. It will be much simpler for an employer to find an appropriate employee using such a database.

Moreover, DISCIPLINA will allow students to build a desired career path easier: for instance, one can specify a target “to work for Microsoft in five years” in the system, and it will determine the best possible and clear educational way: an appropriate university, certain courses, and required skills.

BCSPb: Talking about blockchain in education, how can the Russian educational system benefit from blockchain?

I.N.: Besides above-mentioned things, it will return the value to education. To be honest, a lot of people are going to college in order to receive a diploma rather than knowledge. And after graduation, they don’t know why they need this diploma, as it gives almost nothing during hiring. Just a mark: diploma is available.

Blockchain will also allow to reduce bureaucracy: one won’t have to deal with papers and put marks manually; everything will be digitalized. It will get the education system moving. The possibility to create a trusted rating system of universities, professors, and students will allow to decrease the amount of corrupt schemes and rid the education sector of chaos.

BCSPb: In March, DISCIPLINA will launch a tokensale. What was the most challenging problem you faced when preparing ICO?

I.N.: There were several of them. Taken together, it’s a hard time. First off, the market is not yet established, and it is difficult to find appropriate promotion channels. One has to use conventional ones that are not always efficient. Besides, ICO advertising requires a huge amount of money, while the result can be zero.

Many channels overvalue their own importance. There was such a case: we were offered YouTube ads for 200 impressions that cost an arm and a leg. And similar situation is pretty often.

Currently, the market is full of swindlers who collect huge sums of money and then just disappear with them. Recently, one reported that such swindlers raised funds and disappeared after the crowdsale, leaving an improper word on the website. Honest projects, like ours, are highly criticized because of people being afraid. Their attitude is understandable, but we are none the better for it.

In general, the ICO market is unstable: there is no established legislation in this regard; many countries prohibit not just crowdsales but also cryptocurrencies. Such news have a negative impact on the market, but we believe that our project is worth standing up for it.

BCSPb: Is it possible to put invalid data in DISCIPLINA blockchain? And assuming that it happens, how can one correct misinformation?

I.N.: Data recorded in blockchain become unchanged as soon as a title of private block enters the public chain. If an error occurs during data input, software will allow to cancel a transaction until this point. An educational establishment makes a decision about the block title publication on its own. Besides, marks are fixed, and students receive cryptographic proof of validity of their marks included to the block. Subsequently, if students want to improve their marks, they can take a tutoring session or a course repeatedly (with the agreement of educational establishment). In such a case, blockchain records both of marks.

BCSPb: You are also the head of Bixby Technologies, an agency that provides ICO support and launch services. How does Russian legislation affect the launch of ICO projects?

I.N.: Currently, Russia does not have ICO legislation. It has only a bill that has not come into force yet. In fact, it turns out that we and ICOs we cooperate with operate beyond the Russian Federation legislation. All that we can do now is just keep working and wait for the further situation.


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