Certificate Forgery Solutions using Akowe

Certificate forgery is no longer news, it is a menace that has pervaded many societies especially those in developing nations. The economic and financial pressures for survival, coupled with the stark absence of smart systems for  verification of academic records have led to the proliferation of a thriving certificate forgery underground industry. An increasing number of positions now require certificates, serving as proof of knowledge and expertise, as essential criteria for employment or appointment into jobs or public offices. Notable cases in recent times include the Mmesoma incident, the fake Cotonou varsity degree, the LASU racketeering  and the recent Tinuade Sanda saga stand as prominent examples of certificate forgery in Nigeria

This challenge, specifically the verification of certificates and academic records is the focal point that Akowe aims to tackle by providing a user-friendly solution for different stakeholders to verify the academic records of any individual at any given time.

The Ease of Document Forgery in Nigeria:

Employers must necessarily demand for competency from job candidates. However, the absence of smart verification systems is the leading cause for the rise of forgery incidences. Ordinarily, a smart verification system must be able to connect with all the tertiary institutions and other degree or certificate awarding institutions, similar to how the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System, NIBSS, serves as a central clearing system for bank transactions. But just thinking about the multiple types of academic institutions, professional organizations that would need to be connected, and the concerted efforts needed to implement this, it is easy to understand why it currently does not exist.

At its clampdown, the notorious Oluwole, a den for document forgery in Lagos Nigeria, was in possession of 40,000 fake Nigerian passports and over 1,500 international passports. The ease of conducting the forgery business encouraged this high production of falsified documents and technology has only made this easier as sample files of institutions are easily downloadable for reproduction.

Universities, for instance, have undisputed management of computers or internal servers housing the credentials of students. Investigations into the 2023 LASU certificate racketeering investigation, report how these storage facilities are easily accessed by ICT staff who input and generate false records.

What Does This Mean For The Education System?

The tertiary education system in Nigeria churns out about 600,000 graduates yearly. An increase in cases of forged credentials places doubt on records issued by tertiary institutions, casting doubts on the authenticity of these graduates.

Credential fraud and certificate forgery is a global issue and not a Nigerian one. In Indonesia, 728 forged certificates existed in a single year from a single university. To prevent cases of forged credentials, institutions are turning to a system capable of preventing the falsification of records and offering quick verification of records –  blockchain technology

What is Blockchain Technology?

Blockchain technology is a decentralized and distributed ledger system that enables secure, transparent, and tamper-resistant record-keeping of transactions or documents. Rather than rely on a central authority, such as a bank or school, blockchain relies on a network of computers (nodes) that work together to validate and record transactions.

Blockchain technology might sound technical but in its operation, it is simply a system inputting information in a chronological order, with the special ability to prevent editing of the stored information. Academic records are permanent records, and hence, Blockchain Technology is a perfect fit for solving certificate forgery.

Four features that make Blockchain Technology a perfect fit:

  • Decentralization: Blockchain technology uses a network of nodes (computers) to provide additional security. Each node has an identical copy of information that the other nodes have. faking the information becomes almost impossible. 
  • Auditability: Data stored on the Blockchain can be easily audited. Unlike central systems where records are directly editable, here, a new record must be created since the existing record is tamper proof. Hence anyone can audit the date and see its history. is a chronological system. Every piece of information is entered  in sequence and then called a block.
  • Transparency: With decentralization and auditability comes transparency. Transparency of data ensures that any authorized person/entity can look at data across nodes and will find the same information.
  • Immutability: Perhaps the most important benefit of blockchain in its use for Academic Records is Immutability. Once records are written to the blockchain, they are immutable, un-editable, tamper-proof.

Blockchain systems around the world offer Trust, because the trust is enforced by code and cryptography and not by people or a central authority. Blockchain data is trusted data as it is shared across several networks and requires multiple parties to validate any addition made into it (consensus mechanism). 

It is also important to note is that even though Decentralization is a core part of blockchain technology, in Akowe’s use case, especially for data privacy and data security reasons, Akowe’s blockchain design provides all the other characteristics except decentralization, for very specific reasons.

How does Akowe utilize Blockchain?

To significantly reduce the incidence of credential forgery, we must approach it from two different ends.

  1. The Issuance of the credentials must become digital, thereby eliminating physical documents. The Digital credentials can still be printed, but now, they carry digital verification capabilities.
  2. Smart verification systems that stakeholders can use for verification of academic records.

Akowe’s Technology features a digital issuance engine, Akowe Issuance, a digital verification platform, Akowe Verify as well as a wallet, Akowe Wallet, for easy storage and retrieval of verified and verifiable academic records and credentials. These suite of products are designed to permanently solve certificate forgery.

Akowe Verify: Instant Credential Verification:

Traditional methods for educational credential verification often involves contacting academic institutions or using third-party services. With Akowe Verify, we have completely re-engineered how a smart and efficient verification system should work, providing instant verification services to stakeholders.

Akowe Verify aggregates academic records data from different sources in a responsible and privacy safe manner. We aggregate academic record data from:

  1. Public sources: We aggregate public academic records, categorize and catalog this data and store on our secure systems.
  2. Peer to Peer System: We aggregate public academic records information from graduates themselves, using our proprietary algorithms to verify the data provided
  3. Direct integrations with Academic Institutions themselves. 

All stored securely on blockchain systems. This way, searching to verify records is instant, and with downloadable verification reports.

Akowe Issuance: Digital Certificates on the Blockchain

Academic institutions the world over are switching to digital verifiable certificates issued and stored on the Blockchain. It has become a global standard due to the important capabilities the blockchain technology provides.

Akowe Issuance helps educational institutions transform their credentials from physical to digital in a simple streamlined process. Akowe Issuance is available as a self-serve system, via APIs or as a white label solution.

  1. Institutions provide their certificate and all the relevant details of the credential and the recipients of the certificate.
  2. Akowe Issuance provides an intuitive interface for setting up the certificate, and storing it for future use.
  3. Once ready, certificates are issued digitally with recipients receiving links to their certificates via email.

All digitally issued certificates are downloadable and printable, Akowe also provides a secure Wallet for the safe-keeping and retrieval of these credentials. 

Blockchain Technology and Academic Records go well together

  • AMSI group of schools in Dubai: In keeping with the Blockchain city project, AMSI group of schools became the first in the world to issue credentials on the Blockchain network.
  • University of North Dakota: North Dakota in 2022  launched a program allowing all high school graduates to keep their credentials — transcripts, diplomas and more — in a blockchain-powered digital wallet, similar to the Akowe Wallet.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT: The MIT Art, Design, and Technology University entered the list of schools utilizing blockchain technology. Successively issuing 2,212 blockchain-powered degree certificates to its students.

The combination of cryptographic techniques, approval mechanism, and the structure of the blockchain itself make duplication or forgery difficult

Akowe’s Strategic Partnership with MTN to solve Credential Fraud

In conversations with several different higher institutions in Nigeria, one of the biggest objections to adopting this new technology by these institutions was the data security and the fear of loss of academic records data. Other challenges include cost of upskilling internal staff in Blockchain, data security and cyber security matters.

To this end, Akowe has forged a strategic partnership with MTN, Nigeria’s foremost telecommunications company, to provide data center and data security infrastructure for the security and safety of academic records data. This strategic partnership with MTN will allay the fears of tertiary institutions around data security and data privacy, and significantly unlock the power of digital credentials and digital verification, driving efficient hiring, ensure qualified people get jobs, solving real problems on the ground. 

Akowe has commenced a Pilot Program which will comprise of Akowe, MTN and 5 tertiary institutions who might be interested in transforming their credential process from physical to digital. Please reach out to us at biro@akowe.app for further enquiries.

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