There is a lot of hype about blockchain technology as “bigger than the internet” in terms of its potential impact on society, but it is no exaggeration that it has numerous potential applications in business, finance, retail, health care, and the academe.
Usually described as a decentralized, digitized, distributed ledger and database, blockchain adds records in a chronological order and once the data are stored, it can never be changed. Efficient and low-cost trading is achieved when point-to-point networks establish a foundation of trust that does not require third-party guarantees.
This technology behind bitcoin – which first appeared in 2009 – and other cryptocurrencies is becoming the focus of university teaching and research according to UK-based technology reporter Lindsay McKenzie, who covers science policy, academic publishing, and higher education in Europe and the US.
She said: “Interest in blockchain technology is growing fast in the business world. Many professors are incorporating blockchain into their teaching, and several universities have developed full courses devoted to the technology. In the process, they are providing the emerging discipline, once seen as unserious, with intellectual legitimacy.”
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) started it all through its Digital Currency Initiative, which was launched in 2015 as part of the MIT Media Lab. In 2018, the Stanford University in California and Columbia University in New York created their own blockchain research centers, the latter in collaboration with IBM Corp.
The Columbia-IBM Center for Blockchain and Data Transparency has an “innovation accelerator” to support blockchain-related startups, while Stanford’s Center for Blockchain Research has an initial five-year program supported by the Ethereum Foundation and four other blockchain organizations.
Here in the Philippines, a strategic partnership was recently signed between the South Forbes City College and AmberTime Blockchain, a trade name of Liannet Technology Ltd. which is a subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Apsaras Group Ltd. and a principal licensee of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority.
Located in the town of Silang, Cavite, the South Forbes City College will utilize AmberTime to record student admissions and learning progress as well as issue blockchain diplomas, certificates of completion, and transcripts of records. The “One-Key Uplink” partnership also seeks to expand blockchain developer skill sets among Filipino college graduates and encourage foreign students to consider studying in the Philippines.
AmberTime founder Li Jian said, “the project was developed to design a blockchain technology ecosystem that can create trust, transparency, and usability for multiple sectors across the world, becoming the first independent global authenticity provider using blockchain.”
A group of blockchain experts from the Philippines and Singapore comprise AmberTime’s technical development team that has won international awards in Malaysia, Dubai, and Taiwan. Among them are five alumni from the University of the Philippines (UP) who co-founded MaroonStudios, an information technology firm in Diliman, Quezon City that has served 39 companies and completed more than 50 projects.
Aside from its tie-ups with the South Forbes City College and UP graduates, AmberTime has a cooperation agreement with a Japanese university and is in communication with some higher learning institutions of Australia and Switzerland to promote the convergence of blockchain technology and education. Ultimately, it is committed to build a “borderless university” based on the blockchain certification platform at the center of the next educational storm.
Professor Cesare Fracassi of the University of Texas at Austin believes that since blockchain was discovered and developed by industry practitioners focusing on short-term business applications, university researchers have been struggling to catch up. However, they are now poised to play an important role in advancing the technology as they have the luxury of thinking long-term.
His conclusion: “Because many people singing praises for blockchain are invested in it succeeding, academics can bring more objectivity to the research.”
The author is CFO of the Asian Center for Legal Excellence and chairman of the FINEX Golden Jubilee Book Project.