Digital documents can help ease the verification process

On National Girl Child Day, the Ministry of Women and Child Development presented winners of Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar with digital certificates. These digital documents have been developed by CRUBN, an IIT Kanpur incubated company under the National Blockchain Project. Currently, these certificates are available on wallets installed on the mobiles of recipients. Since these documents are unforgeable and easily verifiable, they could complement the DigiLocker.

Understanding the concept

Digital documents refer to a collection of specific data in a machine-readable format, says Nilesh Vasita, co-founder and CEO at CRUBN. “This data set is enhanced by digital signatures of the issuers, which cannot be tampered with at any point,” tells Vasita, who has completed his dual degree in Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) from IIT Kanpur in 2020.

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The start-up has used a combination of blockchain and self-sovereign identity technologies, he says. “Issuers can define specific attributes in the certificates, such as name and age, using the blockchain technology. End users can control the information they make available to stakeholders, such as universities and exam-holding bodies, through the self-sovereign identity technology,” adds Vasita. Blockchain will also help ensure trust in the digital ecosystem, he tells.

Enhancing digital ecosystem

NV Ramana Rao, director, NIT Warangal, says that digital documents in combination with the DigiLocker will be useful. “Currently, we encounter anything between 5-10% cases of forged documents annually. Manually verifying all suspicious documents is a time-consuming and costly affair. Digitally verified documents on one platform will help,” he tells.

There are three advantages to digital documents, he adds. “Issuing digital documents will save universities time and money, these documents are unforgeable so they will make the verification process for HEIs and employers quicker, and as opposed to the possibility of hard copies getting destroyed, these will always remain available to stakeholders at their fingertips ,” tells Rao.

Saravanan Vijayakumaran, associate professor, department of Electrical Engineering, IIT Bombay, says, “Digital certificates should be especially helpful in easing the process of hiring,” In addition to being readily available, these documents will have an additional verification to the DigiLocker stamp in the form of the issuer’s digital signature, tells Rao.

Feasibility issues

Long-term feasibility of issuing digital certificates depends on the platform used for issuing them, says Vijayakumaran. “If Digilocker takes the responsibility, academic institutions will have less burden. This approach can be sustained in the long term, possibly from fees collected from verifiers. If the issuance is done on a public blockchain, long-term feasibility will depend on the cost of transaction fees necessary to publish the certificates. If the fees become too high, it may not be feasible for academic institutions. At the same time, once published on a public blockchain, the data will be available in a secure and immutable manner.”

Next steps

Vasita tells that the long-term plan for the concept of digital documents is to enhance the DigiLocker system. Rao says that if these documents are successful in eliminating forgery, the next step should be to expand the technology to submission of PhD thesis as well. “If the technology can help culminate the current system of plagiarism amongst thesis students, it will definitely help improve the quality of research in our country,” he says.

Various aspects of this technology are being explored by other institutes as well, showing its need in today’s tech-driven era. A spokesperson from the IIT Madras Incubation Cell tells that one of its incubated start-ups, DocsWallet, has been working in a similar field and has been acquired recently.

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