By now, pretty much everyone who’s heard of blockchain knows that it’s about more than cryptocurrency. Retailers and pharmaceutical companies, for example, are rolling out blockchains for supply chains.
It’s a sensible application. Blockchain can act as a single source of truth for data from multiple systems, while verifying that data through consensus, protecting it via cryptography, and creating an immutable, digital trail through its very nature. That makes blockchain a perfect tool to help stamp out counterfeiting and fraud.
But here’s another use case that these qualities of blockchain are perfect for: identity and credentials management — whether for individuals, prospective employees, current ones, or contractors.
In our global blockchain survey, when we asked executives which blockchain use cases would go mainstream fastest, identity management was #3 on the list, just behind mobile payments and supply chain management.
Here’s how identity and credentials management work on the blockchain.
Prevent resume fraud
When you (or an algorithm) assess someone’s résumé, there’s always a lingering doubt: What if the information is exaggerated or simply made up? Thirty-seven percent of hiring managers who reported bad hires blamed the candidate’s misrepresentation of their credentials/skills for the mistake, according to PwC research.
A credential-checking blockchain can help here (such as PwC’s Smart Credentials platform). The credentials issuer (such as a university, professional organisation, or a prior employer providing a referral) enters the credential directly into the blockchain in order to verify it, then digitally and immutably stores it.
The job’s candidate becomes the owner of this credential, with the ability to digitally share it with prospective employers — but not to alter it.
The process thus becomes trustworthy, transparent, and fast. There’s no need to call anyone to verify the credential, nor even to hunt through your inbox looking for the résumé. It’s all right there on the blockchain.
Verify technicians’ identity and qualifications
Whether you’re dealing with sensitive data, machines, or healthcare decisions, you want to make sure that only the right people with the right qualifications have access.
For example, in a blockchain solution for operator qualifications, employees first enroll into the system with biometrics. They then enter personal information and their credentials and qualifications.
Next, the organisations that issued these credentials confirm the employee’s claims, through a workflow tool, also on the blockchain.
Then, each time the employee goes to perform a task, the system biometrically verifies identity and offers the employer or contractor a confirmed record of qualifications. The blockchain also records each of these biometric verifications, creating a work history.
Once again, the result is trust, transparency, and an immutable digital record.
This functionality can lay the foundation to optimise matching the right person, in the right location, at the right time to the right task.
In my work, I’m mostly focused on blockchain’s business applications, but its possibilities for identity management extend to pretty much everyone.
One point one billion people don’t have any formal identity at all, according to the World Bank. That often keeps them from accessing government benefits, opening bank accounts, and finding employment.
Just as our blockchains for business can keep track of current or prospective employees’ qualifications, blockchains can create and manage identities for those who currently have none.
That’s why the United Nations is looking at blockchain for government IDs, birth certificates, and more.
A blockchain for digital identity can also enable individuals (like the job candidates in our credentials blockchain) to decide exactly with whom and how to share the different parts of their digital identity, in essence, democratising data ownership back to consumers.
In other words, not just businesses, but individuals too can use blockchain to increase trust in their own identities.
Strategies for moving forward
I hope it’s clear just how powerful blockchain can be in solving a key hiring, contracting, operational, and security challenge: proving that people are who they claim to be, and that they have the qualifications to perform the tasks that they’ve been asked to perform. As such, blockchain-managed identity can also empower individuals, whether part of the gig economy, or previously not part of the formal economy at all, to bolster trust in their identities and open pathways to new and better opportunities.
Identity management is just one of many reasons why every company should at least be looking at blockchain. And if you have taken a look but got stuck along the way, take a second look.
A version of this article was previously published in PwC’s Digital Pulse.