Counting U.S. postsecondary and secondary credentials

(Post published by Jeff Selingo in LinkedIn)

It’s one of the most debated topics in hiring today: what credentials are actually needed to do a job? A college degree—and the bachelor’s degree in particular—has long been a recognizable signal to employers of potential and discipline.

But today there seems to be a lot more noise interfering with that signal. I just finished reading this new report out today from Credential Engine, which counts and classifies the different types of credentials in the marketplace.

What I found most fascinating in the report for anyone hiring now is that the United States has at least 738,428 unique credentials, including:

  • 370,020 credentials issued by colleges and universities.
  • 7,132 credentials from MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) providers (think edX and Coursera), the vast majority of them being course completion certificates.
  • 315,067 credentials from non-academic organizations, with the largest categories being digital badges and online course completion certificates.
  • 46,209 credentials from public and private secondary schools.

You can read the full report here.

Goodbye uPort DIDs, hello Ethr-DIDs

(Article published by Eseoghene Mentie with same title in Medium)

We have released a major app update that enables migrating all old uPort identities created before September 2018, to the current DID architecture. Not to worry though, your old Identity data will still be available to use and all verifications issued will be available.

During the fourth quarter of 2018, we announced our updated identity app release that implements the new W3C Verifiable Claims Working Group identity architecture. As a followup to that, we released version 1.0 of our libraries which is the first version of our developer platform, including support for our new identity architecture.

Why do we need to migrate all identities created before September 2018?

First, we’re part of the W3C identity working group. We believe that interoperable standards are essential to successfully deliver the value of decentralized identity for everyone. Second, more tactically, we want to ensure our developers and users can start to take advantage of the benefits of having Ethr-DIDs, which include:

  • Identities anchored on Ethereum’s Mainnet
  • Automated creation of Ethereum Mainnet accounts per App
  • Scalable and more stable identity

We will also be introducing a feature that allows you to store your old uportDID and the accounts associated with it, including all the verifications and claims you have stored over the years. We know they could be valuable some time in the future, so we decided to keep them safe for you.

It also allows you to switch between your EthrDID, which is called your main identity, and your old uportDID, which is called your legacy identity.

So, heads up that support for uPort-DIDs will be deprecated over the coming months in our developer platform, while we’ll be releasing more features based on the new architecture later in the year.

If you do have issues migrating your identity, please reach out to us via our support channel . We are always available to help with any issues you might be facing while using the app.

‘Big 4’ auditor PwC’s Luxembourg office to accept crypto payments

(Article published by Daniel Kuhn with same title in CoinDesk)

“Big Four” auditing firm PwC’s Luxembourg branch will accept cryptocurrency payments from clients starting October. The move is a response to client demand and demonstrates PwC Luxembourg’s belief in blockchain technology’s “medium to long-term” role in the economy, the firm said.

PwC Luxembourg said it partnered with a local exchange to facilitate the payments. It did not identify the exchange or say which coins it will accept.

Taking crypto may help PwC serve its blockchain clients, by providing day-to-day insight into “AML/KYC-enhanced due diligence… public/private keys… and risks of custodial solutions,” said the Luxembourg office’s director of blockchain and crypto-assets, Thomas Campione, in a statement.

PwC has been working with cryptocurrencies since 2014. Four hundred of its 250,000 worldwide employees work on “crypto-topics,” supported by a 100-member technical team devoted to blockchain.

The firm’s Hong Kong office accepted a bitcoin payment in 2017 for work related to cryptocurrency auditing. In June, the firm announced the Halo data auditing suite, which monitors cryptocurrency transactions for a number of institutional clients.

Gigante austriaco de telecomunicaciones aceptará criptomonedas

(Artículo publicado por Alpeprim con mismo título en CriptoNews)

Uno de los mayores proveedores de telefonía móvil en Austria está planeando aceptar criptomonedas para el pago en ciertas tiendas. A1, que da servicio a unos 5,1 millones de líneas móviles y 2,1 millones de líneas fijas en toda Austria, está probando los pagos de criptomonedas en las tiendas de toda Austria. Dash, Ethereum, Litecoin, Stellar y XRP estarán disponibles para el pago, según un informe del sitio de noticias tecnológicas austriaco Futurezone.

Fundada en 1881, A1 atiende a 5,1 millones de los 6,2 millones de usuarios de teléfonos móviles austriacos actuales.

El programa piloto también organizará pagos para Alipay y WeChat Pay a finales de agosto. A partir de ahora, Futurezone enumeró siete ubicaciones iniciales que aceptan pagos de criptomonedas en toda Austria.

«El efectivo es un modelo discontinuado», dijo el jefe del marketing comercial de A1, Markus Schreiber, a Futurezone. «Con nuestra operación piloto en las tiendas A1, probaremos la demanda y aceptación de la moneda digital en Austria.»

Futurezone dice que A1 se asocia con las soluciones bancarias Salamantex, Ingenico y Concardis para el proyecto. Al igual que otras soluciones de pago criptomoneda populares, las fluctuaciones de precios se absorben a través de la arquitectura de soluciones bancarias. Además, A1 le dijo a Futurezone que la opción de pago no es sólo para los austriacos locales, sino cada vez más orientado a los turistas.

Blockchain may be used in FDA medical reviews and recalls

(Article published by Daniel Kuhn with same title in CoinDesk)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may incorporate blockchain to improve drug and medical products reviews and recalls.

In a speech at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT Third Interoperability Forum, on August 22, principal deputy commissioner Dr. Amy Abernethy, said the FDA is looking to modernize the way health care providers, drug manufacturers, and regulatory agencies communicate. Without going into details, Abernethy said the agency plans to roll out uses of artificial intelligence, APIs and blockchain in this modernization effort. Improved interoperability – how the agency handles and shares information – may affect the reviewal process for new medicines.

“I want FDA to get our own technical house in order so that tech can ‘snap in’ – we can be agile and efficient. We need to be able to have common interfaces with industry so we can pass data between our organizations, have collaborative review, etc,” Abernethy said.  “Traceability back to source allows for the ability to crosscheck, workflow solutions,” she said. In that sense, the immutable ledger that blockchain provides may be used to guarantee data quality that comes from a number of sources.

Abernethy also alluded to a communication system where regulators are provided with real-time information and data. This speeds up the reviewal process, because FDA agents will be able to exchange messages contemporaneously with medical manufacturers. Additionally, improved surveillance of medical products will assist in “determining when something should be recalled or a product label should be adjusted,” she said.

With improved data flows, Abernethy said medicine can become more targeted and patient-oriented.

Abernethy also serves as the acting chief information officer of FDA. She ended by saying the system will be rolled out in a “month or two.”

UK central bank chief sees digital currency displacing US dollar as global reserve

(Article published by Nikhilesh De with same title in CoinDesk)

A central bank-supported digital currency could replace the dollar as the global hedge currency, said Bank of England governor Mark Carney.

Speaking at the Economic Policy Symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Carney discussed the need for a new international monetary and financial system (IMFS), noting that while the U.S. dollar has played a dominant role in the world order over much the past century, recent developments such as increased globalization and trade disputes may have stronger impacts on national economies at the present moment than they would have in the past.

Carney highlighted the dollar’s use in international securities issuance, its use as the primary settlement currency for international trades and the fact that companies use dollars as examples of its dominance. However, “developments in the U.S. economy, by affecting the dollar exchange rate, can have large spillover effects to the rest of the world.” “While the world economy is being reordered, the U.S. dollar remains as important as when Bretton Woods collapsed,” Carney continued.

Carney suggested a number of possible replacements to the dollar, including the Chinese renminbi, and most notably, a digital currency supported by an international coalition of central banks. He said: “It is an open question whether such a new Synthetic Hegemonic Currency (SHC) would be best provided by the public sector, perhaps through a network of central bank digital currencies.” “An SHC could dampen the domineering influence of the U.S. dollar on global trade,” Carney said.

Technology can disrupt the current network effects that protect the dollar, he explained, noting that an increasing number of transactions occur online and use electronic payments rather than cash. While he did not explicitly reference cryptocurrencies, he did note that “the relatively high costs of domestic and cross border electronic payments are encouraging innovation, with new entrants applying new technologies to offer lower cost, more convenient retail payment services.”

Libra example

One example is Facebook’s proposed Libra crypto project, he noted. The social media giant has proposed Libra as a payments infrastructure and stablecoin backed by a basket of national currencies.

To succeed, Libra needs to address regulatory issues, Carney said. “The Bank of England and other regulators have been clear that unlike in social media, for which standards and regulations are only now being developed after the technologies have been adopted by billions of users, the terms of engagement for any new systemic private payments system must be in force well in advance of any launch.”

While a digital currency might not yet be ready to replace the dollar as a global currency, “the concept is intriguing,” Carney said. “It is worth considering how an SHC in the IMFS could support better global outcomes, given the scale of the challenges of the current IMFS and the risks in transition to a new hegemonic reserve currency like the Renminbi,” he said.

If this new SHC were to take on a greater share of global trade, “shocks in the U.S. would have less potent spillovers,” he suggested, adding: “By the same token, global trade would become more sensitive to changes in conditions in the countries of the other currencies in the basket backing the SHC.”

What is the Libra Association?

(Article published by Michael K. Spencer with same title in Medium)

In May of 2019, Facebook registered Libra Networks LLC in Geneva, Switzerland, one of the most friendly regulatory environments for cryptocurrency projects, in order to create a new digital currency and FinServe hub called Libra.

Libra was positioned as the new stablecoin (touted as a cryptocurrency) for the everyday online consumer, backed by one of the largest companies in the world. In its highly anticipated white paper, the Libra Association announced that “Libra’s mission is to enable a simple global currency and financial infrastructure that empowers billions of people.”

The new digital currency will be built on the Libra Blockchain and fully backed by the Libra reserve, a basket of fiat currencies and ‘other assets’. The project claims to be decentralized and governed by the Libra Association.

Facebook has linked with 28 partners in a Geneva-based entity called the Libra Association, which will govern its new digital coin, set to launch in the first half of 2020, according to marketing materials and interviews with executives.

What is the Libra Association?

The Libra Association is an independent, not-for-profit membership organization headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

“Members of the Libra Association will consist of geographically distributed and diverse businesses, nonprofit and multilateral organizations and academic institutions.” Founding members include:

  • Payments: Mastercard, PayPal, PayU (Naspers’ fintech arm), Stripe, Visa = 5
  • Technology and marketplaces: Booking Holdings, eBay, Facebook/Calibra, Farfetch, Lyft, MercadoPago, Spotify AB, Uber Technologies, Inc. = 8
  • Telecommunications: Iliad, Vodafone Group = 2
  • Blockchain: Anchorage, Bison Trails, Coinbase, Inc., Xapo Holdings Limited = 4
  • Venture Capital: Andreessen Horowitz, Breakthrough Initiatives, Ribbit Capital, Thrive Capital, Union Square Ventures= 5
  • Nonprofit and multilateral organizations, and academic institutions: Creative Destruction Lab, Kiva, Mercy Corps, Women’s World Banking = 4

Libra is designed to be a high throughput, global blockchain, one that’s built with programmable money in mind, but limits how much users can do initially as it evolves from prototype to a robust ecosystem. Sound familiar? It’s cloning many aspects of public blockchains and crypto with oversight by major BigTech and payment companies.

The Libra Association is like seats at a global council on how the future of money will work. Facebook is rumored to be seeking $1B for the project with plans to bring on new partners in addition to those named.

What Facebook is trying to create is more than just a PayPal and Coinbase hybrid, it’s to establish itself as the leading digital currency hub and network to fuel and retain users in its suite of apps and walled gardens.

The Libra Blockchain is ambitious and the B2B play of the Libra Association is the key to funnel mainstream adoption. Advertising makes powerful friends and so does sharing user data with these partners. Now Facebook realizes it’s time to share the money and become officially the first BigTech company to go after banking and digital assets with a consumer-facing blockchain payments product.

China’s central bank says it’s close to releasing its own digital currency

(Article published by Ryan Browne with same title in CNBC)

China’s central bank is nearly ready to issue its own sovereign digital currency, according to Mu Changchun, deputy director of the People’s Bank of China’s payments department, who said the institution’s virtual currency was “almost ready” for release, according to Reuters. Mu’s comments were also reported by Bloomberg.

Researchers at the bank have been working on the currency for five years. The PBOC hasn’t been alone in exploring the possibility of issuing digital currency as an alternative to cash; Sweden’s Riksbank is another central bank looking into the idea.

According to reports, China’s central bank would launch its digital token through a two-tier system, under which both the PBOC and commercial banks are legitimate issuers. The PBOC said it wouldn’t rely on blockchain exclusively, and would instead maintain a more neutral stance on which technology it decides to use.

Blockchain, otherwise known as distributed ledger technology, is the framework that underpins cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.

“Personally, I’m still struggling to understand the advantage of this over the current system,” Mati Greenspan, senior market analyst at trading platform eToro, said in a note Monday. “Something tells me that this is a completely different animal from what we know as cryptocurrencies.”

The news comes as global central bankers take a skeptical view on Facebook’s plans to create a cryptocurrency alongside a consortium of major companies including Visa and Uber. Called Libra, the currency hasn’t gone unnoticed by the PBOC, which said last month that it should come under central bank oversight.

US Secretary of State says crypto should be regulated like SWIFT

(Article published by Daniel Palmer with same title in CoinDesk)

U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has said he believes that cryptocurrencies should be regulated in the same way as financial institutions.

Pompeo was asked how best to regulate Facebook’s Libra or bitcoin, and he responded: “My sense is this: We should use the same framework that we use to regulate all other electronic financial transactions today. That’s essentially what these are. These are monies moving through markets, or in some case disintermediated transactions.” The same rules that apply to transactions “flowing through SWIFT or flowing through our financial institutions ought to apply to those transactions as well,” Pompeo explained. “I concede it will be difficult to do.”

During the discussion that covered a range of issues from the Hong Kong protests to state-run propaganda farms using Twitter and Facebook, the Trump adviser also addressed the use of pseudonymous cryptocurrencies in the funding of terrorism and money laundering. He argued that if such private transactions became the norm, it would “decrease the security for the world if that’s the direction we travel.”

Being able to track the flows of money around the world “has helped keep the entire world secure and to fight terrorism and other nefarious activity … We need to preserve a financial system, a global financial system, that protects that,” Pompeo said.

However, he also appeared to agree that all money laundering until now has been conducted with fiat currency.

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