.
W

illows and Oaks

Should access to our personal data and a quality education be a human right? Not an American right, not a right for those who happen to live in the right zip code, but a global human right? Across a growing network of mission-aligned organizations in the future of education space, there is a belief that this can be the case and they have their sights set on building the infrastructure needed to make it a reality. This future vision is being referred to as, the Internet of Education.

The average person checks their phone well over 50 times per day. In the U.S. alone, with some 275 million smart phone users, that could easily amount to 15+ billion data points being shipped instantly to just a few companies, and by extension advertisers, every day. This is asymmetric warfare at scale; the stakes of which we’ve yet to fully comprehend.

Even if each data point—each like, swipe, or retweet—were only worth a penny, that’s still some $150 million worth of data we willingly part with every day. And amid the current pandemic, most of us are only further feeding this machine as we spend countless hours in our fancy new Zoom-fueled virtual realities. It’s fair to say that there are flaws in our existing infrastructure.

As we think about the future of work, owning our own data will be critical as we look to develop new skills for jobs yet to be imagined. We’ve seen the importance of owning this data in striking detail amid the current pandemic, with nearly 15% of the U.S. population unemployed, and we’ll see it after the pandemic as AI and automation continues to bend and obscure the employment landscape.  

Toward the Internet of Education

By promoting agency, open standards, and merit-based opportunity for all learners regardless of race, gender, or zip code, we can bridge the digital divide and seed new networks of human potential. Alongside a novel virus, we see an opportunity for novel education and employment infrastructures; ones which, if realized, will allow us to avoid shouldering the burden of having seen a better future yet failed to build it.

Amidst chaos of COVID-19, we have an opportunity to bridge our shared efforts into an open, global Internet of Education. Shared learnings from anonymized learner data will fuel innovation and industry. Skills and achievement data, secured with cryptographic techniques to ensure privacy, will allow us to measurably solve skills gaps and enter a new era where we can finally quantify the impact of human capital on our way to global human flourishing.

Empowerment of Ownership

Let’s imagine Jenna, a part-time student who was working as a retail clerk prior to COVID-19, one course shy of finishing her associate’s degree with a dream of becoming a nurse. She’s accrued a range of valuable skills, but owns nothing with currency in today’s labor market. She’s in debt, jobless, and has no practical ownership of her own data; assertions of skills she rightfully earned and owns. Sadly, this isn’t hypothetical. This is the story for thousands struggling to make sense of the present and fearful of an increasingly uncertain future. Much like the physical, existing identity credentials we all own, what might a secure, digital skills wallet do to reinforce identity and create a sense of empowerment for the displaced and unemployed?

Imagine a post-pandemic world where Jenna owned and controlled her data and achievements. A world where knowledge, skills, and data were treated like assets that had currency in an open and equitable marketplace. This is the learning or knowledge economy that early internet pioneers imagined, and a vision still possible and worth building. A wide range of complementary communities and projects being pioneered by groups like MIT’s Digital Credentials Consortium, the T3 Innovation Network, and many others are currently working towards this type of infrastructure.

With advances in distributed systems, global standards, open digital wallet architectures, and a shared focus on human and data dignity, we can all play a role in planting tomorrow’s willows among the forest of old dying oaks. That said, there’s work to be done that will take both community coherence and collective action.

Together, we're working to:

• Connect the most vulnerable learners to the internet and ensure they have access to a personal, internet-enabled device (smartphone, laptop, tablet, etc.).

• Empower learners to store their own skills data and credentials in a safe, secure wallet with total access control.

• Provide all learners with equal access to quality education and opportunity.

Existential threats will continue to come and go, but seeding the global Internet of Education, and bridging the skills and equity gaps widened by this crisis can endure for the benefit of all learners after the pandemic. Every crisis is part opportunity and part threat, and for education and employment, this moment represents a silver lining; one showing us where we have failed and offering us the opportunity to create a more durable future for generations to come.

About
Taylor Kendal
:
Taylor is a Diplomatic Courier contributor focused on Web3, privacy/digital ethics, bridging cultures of entrepreneurship and education, infusing agility and intellectual honesty into bureaucracy, and exploring the future of education on the blockchain.
About
Chris Purifoy
:
Chris Purifoy is a senior contributing editor with Diplomatic Courier.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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www.diplomaticourier.com

Data Dignity and Digital Wallets: Infrastructure for the New Economy

August 10, 2020

As the impact of COVID-19 accelerates shifts in the needs of our work forces, individual data ownership will be key to ensuring individual agency and merit-based opportunity.

W

illows and Oaks

Should access to our personal data and a quality education be a human right? Not an American right, not a right for those who happen to live in the right zip code, but a global human right? Across a growing network of mission-aligned organizations in the future of education space, there is a belief that this can be the case and they have their sights set on building the infrastructure needed to make it a reality. This future vision is being referred to as, the Internet of Education.

The average person checks their phone well over 50 times per day. In the U.S. alone, with some 275 million smart phone users, that could easily amount to 15+ billion data points being shipped instantly to just a few companies, and by extension advertisers, every day. This is asymmetric warfare at scale; the stakes of which we’ve yet to fully comprehend.

Even if each data point—each like, swipe, or retweet—were only worth a penny, that’s still some $150 million worth of data we willingly part with every day. And amid the current pandemic, most of us are only further feeding this machine as we spend countless hours in our fancy new Zoom-fueled virtual realities. It’s fair to say that there are flaws in our existing infrastructure.

As we think about the future of work, owning our own data will be critical as we look to develop new skills for jobs yet to be imagined. We’ve seen the importance of owning this data in striking detail amid the current pandemic, with nearly 15% of the U.S. population unemployed, and we’ll see it after the pandemic as AI and automation continues to bend and obscure the employment landscape.  

Toward the Internet of Education

By promoting agency, open standards, and merit-based opportunity for all learners regardless of race, gender, or zip code, we can bridge the digital divide and seed new networks of human potential. Alongside a novel virus, we see an opportunity for novel education and employment infrastructures; ones which, if realized, will allow us to avoid shouldering the burden of having seen a better future yet failed to build it.

Amidst chaos of COVID-19, we have an opportunity to bridge our shared efforts into an open, global Internet of Education. Shared learnings from anonymized learner data will fuel innovation and industry. Skills and achievement data, secured with cryptographic techniques to ensure privacy, will allow us to measurably solve skills gaps and enter a new era where we can finally quantify the impact of human capital on our way to global human flourishing.

Empowerment of Ownership

Let’s imagine Jenna, a part-time student who was working as a retail clerk prior to COVID-19, one course shy of finishing her associate’s degree with a dream of becoming a nurse. She’s accrued a range of valuable skills, but owns nothing with currency in today’s labor market. She’s in debt, jobless, and has no practical ownership of her own data; assertions of skills she rightfully earned and owns. Sadly, this isn’t hypothetical. This is the story for thousands struggling to make sense of the present and fearful of an increasingly uncertain future. Much like the physical, existing identity credentials we all own, what might a secure, digital skills wallet do to reinforce identity and create a sense of empowerment for the displaced and unemployed?

Imagine a post-pandemic world where Jenna owned and controlled her data and achievements. A world where knowledge, skills, and data were treated like assets that had currency in an open and equitable marketplace. This is the learning or knowledge economy that early internet pioneers imagined, and a vision still possible and worth building. A wide range of complementary communities and projects being pioneered by groups like MIT’s Digital Credentials Consortium, the T3 Innovation Network, and many others are currently working towards this type of infrastructure.

With advances in distributed systems, global standards, open digital wallet architectures, and a shared focus on human and data dignity, we can all play a role in planting tomorrow’s willows among the forest of old dying oaks. That said, there’s work to be done that will take both community coherence and collective action.

Together, we're working to:

• Connect the most vulnerable learners to the internet and ensure they have access to a personal, internet-enabled device (smartphone, laptop, tablet, etc.).

• Empower learners to store their own skills data and credentials in a safe, secure wallet with total access control.

• Provide all learners with equal access to quality education and opportunity.

Existential threats will continue to come and go, but seeding the global Internet of Education, and bridging the skills and equity gaps widened by this crisis can endure for the benefit of all learners after the pandemic. Every crisis is part opportunity and part threat, and for education and employment, this moment represents a silver lining; one showing us where we have failed and offering us the opportunity to create a more durable future for generations to come.

About
Taylor Kendal
:
Taylor is a Diplomatic Courier contributor focused on Web3, privacy/digital ethics, bridging cultures of entrepreneurship and education, infusing agility and intellectual honesty into bureaucracy, and exploring the future of education on the blockchain.
About
Chris Purifoy
:
Chris Purifoy is a senior contributing editor with Diplomatic Courier.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.