Building a Business Around Identity In Education (From a Colombian Perspective)

From IIW

Building A Business Around Identity In Education – From A Colombian Perspective

Thursday 15J

Convener: Sabastian Farfan & Danny Suarez

Notes-taker(s): Sabastian Farfan

Tags for the session - technology discussed/ideas considered:

Discussion notes, key understandings, outstanding questions, observations, and, if appropriate to this discussion: action items, next steps:

Write-up from Sabastian Farfan:

It was a pleasure being a part of the 29 version of the internet identity workshop held in Mountain View, California this week and to have the opportunity to share my experience from a Colombian point of view.

Unfortunately when it comes to identity i know that my country, Colombia, is known for mostly three thing: Beautiful women (like Shakira and Sofia Vergara), making the world greatest coffee and for drugs (thank you Narcos for this).

We as Colombians are trying to break this stereotypies because we are hard-working people and we want to make an impact in world economy. For example, I don’t know if you know, but the first unicorn in Latin America is from Brazil called Nubank a fintech founded by David Vélez a Colombian entrepreneur. And the second unicorn, is a delivery company called Rappi an app were you can order whatever you want in any part of Colombia, but besides being a delivery service, what they really do is collect the hugest number of data sell it to big companies.

We are eager to take part in world economy and we are ready to take a big step. The problem is that the idea of digital identity is unknown in Colombia.

Our main concern, in terms of internet, is for people to have access to it. About 23.8 million of Colombians don’t have access to internet and this is one of the biggest challenges the country has. That segment of the population concentrate in remote regions and in the main cities they concentrate in the lower-income society, the technology is simply not there. Comparing to the states, 76% of the population have access to the internet.

¿Did you know about the Facebook initiative about giving internet access to everyone? In 2014 Facebook had this initiative where they wanted to give internet for all calling the project Colombia was the first Latin American country to receive the app by the hand of a big telecommunications company called TIGO. This didn’t worked because of many reasons involving internet neutrality and fair competition. They only had access to 16 web pages including Facebook of course.

Now let’s talk about the blockchain legislation, if you have a wallet with 4 Bitcoins, today the Bitcoin is at 14 dollars and the end of the month that Bitcoin increases it’s value to 10,000 dollars ¿do I have to pay taxes by this occasional money valuation? Ok, in Colombia i was in a criptocurrency conference and a lawyer talked about this subject, and he said that our legislation is way behind because we don’t know yet how we can handle this front the taxable part and, I mean, governments are always looking for a way to have more tax collection and improving and improving the country’s revenue system. But corruption is a disease in my country so things tend to happen really slow.

However, they are about 7 companies that are emerging in the blockchain ecosystem in Colombia. And the more the better, because they incentive fair competition and the most import thing they educate people in the use of their digital identity, but ¿How do you talk about identity to a normal person?

Self Sovereign Identity is a beautiful market because when a competitor closes a deal or does well with a client, it helps the others because it creates trust in the system. The market is really big and we are just starting to explore it. The only problem i see is that Colombian universities and companies want to create a closed network and in the future ¿Would we be able to create interoperability between all the networks?

I’m going to tell you a little anecdote that I had. In 2015 i graduated with a double bachelor degree in Business Administration and Design form the best university in my country, University of Los Andes, and I wanted to do a master’s degree in London Business School. For the application to the program i had to send my certificates to the university and for doing that I had to three things:

  1. Go to the university and ask for the documents, for this they took about 2 weeks.
  2. Then I had to go to a place called a registry and add a stamp to the documents (you know, just to make sure that I wasn’t making this all up) I manage to make this in a day
  3. Then I had to go to the delivery company to send this documents to the university.

The first time i did this, the delivery company lost my documents, they simply didn’t knew where they went. The second time, i went to the registry they put the stamps wrong so i had to go back (a third time) to the university and ask them for the documents. In all this time, the university in London didn’t get the documents and i had to apply all over again. So I postponed this and start working in the health sector.

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Being aware of digital identity in the world and knowing Colombia is not part of it, we created Xertify to meet this goal, a company that issues digital credentials for students. At the beginning we started going to the big universities, to the government and all this big institutions that just didn’t listened to us, they saw as a small project with no much importance. This is because the universities have long bureaucratic processes that make hard for decisions to be made.

¿How long do you think it takes to close a deal with a university? approximately 12 months, because you talk to them at the beginning of the year, when they are planning their budget for next year, and meanwhile you try a demo and continue tu manage the client. We had to review our business model, because when you go to the market you will meet many things that you think are right but are actually wrong like ¿how are we charging for this? ¿Is better to sell packages or a monthly subscription? For example, one big university turn us down because our business model at the time was for packages of 200–3000 certificates and they were issuing approximately 10,000 documents a month.

When you are an entrepreneur you have to deal with rejection all the time and this is beautiful because is a learning process that few can handle. After this we found a big language institution that wanted to issue digital credentials, it took 7 months to close the deal but we found that in this time of non-formal education system the bureaucratic process is not that long, decisions are made fast and implementation was easy. They are a lot of non formal education institutions and they want to differentiate with each other.

In Colombia the concept of digital identity is unknown yet we started to sell this idea of self sovereign identity and empowering students to hold their data but universities really don’t care about any of this, they just want to make the process easier and to save money. Funny thing that we found also is that people or students don’t really care about digital identity, they just want their life to be easier.