Author : Antara Sengupta

Expert Speak India Matters
Published on Jul 02, 2018
Using blockchain technology to better skill development certification

Skill India Mission, one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious projects, completes three years in July 2018, and the movement has been quite notable. Post the formation of the Ministry of Skills Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) in 2015, most efforts towards skilling India under various departments and ministries were brought under the MSDE for better coordination and elimination of duplication in such endeavours. Sadly, the MSDE has failed to achieve any breakthrough on this count. Even today, apart from fragmented efforts by the MSDE, 17 different ministries in India – that work in their own silos – continue to provide skills training in their respective areas.

Even under the MSDE, there are efforts by various departments and organisations such as the Directorate General of Training (DGT) through Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs), Advanced Training Institutes (ATIs) and Skill Development Initiative (SDI) schemes; National Skill Development Corporation’s (NSDC’s) schemes such as PMKVY, UDAAN and National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM); AICTE’s programmes such as community colleges, Employability Enhancement Training Programme (EETP), National Employability Enhancement Mission (NEEM), etc. Under these, the students receive variety of certificates and diplomas from the Training Partners and institutes, which constitute training that ranges from a few hours to months. Additionally, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) also offers Bachelor of Vocation (BVoc) degrees through three-year fulltime courses. Besides, there are a number of private corporations that upskill and reskill employees on their own accord, not aligned to any government schemes.

In terms of enrollment, there are about 12 lakh students enrolled in ITIs, about 55,000 students under AICTE schemes and about 23 lakh students under the various National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) partners, according to data compiled based on questions asked in both houses of the Parliament by IndiaStat. One cannot be sure if there isn’t a movement between these categories of students within the organisations. Students from NSDC partner institutes may also move to ITIs for want of longer, more specialised degrees. In such a case, these numbers are mere indicators.

While multifarious efforts are much appreciated as there is a humungous target that the government needs to fulfil to benefit from the rich demographic dividend, one of the major challenges which it still needs to overcome is standardisation and duplicacy in certification. When a student approaches an employer with one or more of such certificates, in the absence of a national standard in certification set by MSDE, the employer is free to either accept or reject the demand for employment. In fact, the Sharda Prasad Committee on rationalisation and optimisation of sector skill councils recommends the formation of an independent National Board for Assessment and Certification to standardise this process. While standardisation of certification is an issue that the ministry needs to carefully deliberate on, in the interim, it will be an interesting proposition to consider blockchain technology to manage the database of certification of students under various schemes and programmes under skill development.

"Blockchain essentially is a database of record stored, linked and secured by cryptography. While it can be distributed (accessed by many), it cannot be copied or duplicated. It has timestamps that allows each user to understand edits in the various versions of the document."


Now imagine this – a training partner issues a certificate to a carpenter on the main blockchain server, which is now available for public viewing. When the carpenter approaches a multinational firm for employment, they access it on the server, view the credentials of the student and the partner, and decide for themselves if such a programme suits them to hire the candidate. This saves the company the cost of verification done by a third party. In another scenario, if this candidate, decides to enroll himself under one of the BVoc courses for further education, all that the institute will have to do is to log on to the same sever and view his records. This can make Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) an easy task too, eventually with proper and streamlined efforts by all parties concerned.

A similar effort is being made by the Government of India (GoI) to issue digitised certificates to students graduating from universities in 2019. Under IndiaChain, in collaboration with IIT-Bombay, GoI will issue certificates to students of University of Delhi. A similar effort is being made at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the USA. This will eliminate the problem of fake certificates and reduce employer cost of verification. Moreover, securing transcripts and certificates from Indian universities is currently a tedious and expensive affair. Besides, depending on the stature of the college or the university, it may take months for students to issue transcripts, costing the candidate a job or a university position in many cases. In most of our Indian institutes, issuance of certificates is still not a digital affair, which indicates the involvement of a range of manpower and their time in accomplishing a simple task such as this.

A similar problem in the skills ecosystem can be mitigated by the use of blockchain technology, where there are cases of fraudulent enrolment, certification and placement of candidates.

"While the formal education system is a relatively uncomplicated sector, it might be useful for such a system to be implemented in sectors that involve multiple players such as skill development."


India is currently deliberating on establishing several standalone skills universities, along with continuing the short-term programmes conducted by various agencies under the MSDE or otherwise. It can be chaotic once these students graduate given the multiplicity of organisations involved in skilling the population.

While blockchain in skills sounds promising, it cannot be an individual effort. It has to be an effort made by the government and mandated across sectors to standardise the process and increase its efficacy.

"A higher education institute uploading certificates on the blockchain server will do no good, unless other private training partners do the same too, so that an employer can effectively utilise the system to hire workforce."


Although it is important to focus on the targets set and achieved by various schemes and programmes under Skill India mission, it is also essential for the government to decentralise and standardise recognition of such skills by all stakeholders to ensure success of the existing system. It is high time government invites competent software developers and technology startups to attempt developing a robust system for database management and certification in skills. Blockchain technology has the solutions.

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Antara Sengupta

Antara Sengupta

Antara Sengupta is an Erasmus+ scholar pursuing an International Masters in Education Policies for Global Development. She is a former Research Fellow at ORF Mumbai.

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