Basic Information

Solution Name

Blockcerts: Recipient-Owned, Lifelong Digital Credentials


Blockcerts empowers people to privately own their official documents, share them with anyone, and verify them instantly and for free. 


Blockcerts is an in-production solution incubated at the MIT Media Lab. It is already being deployed by governments around the world to provide citizens with lifelong digital records that they own and can verify anywhere in the world for free. It achieves the goals of the Mission Billion Challenge in the following ways:

User Empowerment ("Self-Sovereign Identity"):

1. Gives issuers and recipients lifelong ownership of their official records.

Both issuers and recipients receive and hold their digital records directly; they are not stored in a vendor database. Issuers and recipients can also prove that they own their records cryptographically. Ownership of and access to Blockcerts is lifelong and does not depend on any software vendor. Blockcerts are portable, interoperable records that can be immediately shared and used anywhere in the world. 

2. Gives issuers and recipients autonomy over how they use their records.

Storing, viewing, sharing, and verifying Blockcerts is free by default. Individuals can share their records with anyone they choose and verify them instantly. Individuals may also choose not to share their Blockcerts and keep them private. 

3. Gives relying third parties the ability to verify any record instantly and for free.

Relying parties can easily verify any Blockcert through widely available technology: a web browser or a mobile phone. Verification is instant, free, and independent of any software vendor. It is not necessary to know a record number or any identifying information about an individual to verify their Blockcerts. Verification and pre-screening of Blockcerts can also be automated, for example in an employer's Applicant Tracking or HR System.

4. Provides next-generation digital document security to enable the global trust economy.

Not only can both parties cryptographically prove ownership of their Blockcerts, but Blockcerts are also tamper evident. Any alteration is immediately detected by the open source Verifier. The Verifier also immediately detects whether a Blockcert has been expired or revoked. This facilitates the global mobility of students, workers, and others by removing bottlenecks to the verification of identity and achievements in high-stakes situations (for example, at a border crossing, or when applying for a job).

Data Privacy and Protection: 

5. Blockcerts are stored entirely off-chain, meaning no document data is recorded on any blockchain.  

6. Issuers and recipients choose where they store their Blockcerts, whether that is on a device hard drive, in a private cloud account, or on a private network. Issuing institutions can apply privacy practices consistent with local regulations and global standards. 

7. There is no single centralized database of Blockcerts that can serve as a honeypot for attackers. 

8. The Blockcerts Wallet, a mobile app used to receive and store Blockcerts, is completely private and owned by the recipient. No one else has access to the Wallet. 

Blockcerts launched in 2016. Since that time it has become the most widely adopted and tried and tested solution for self-sovereign blockchain records in the world today, with implementations on multiple blockchains in many countries.

Elevator pitch:

Solution location:

New York, NY, USA

Solution's stage of development:

About Your Solution

What makes the solution innovative:

Blockcerts is a new technology for anchoring documents to a blockchain in a way that enables lifelong ownership and verification. Blockcerts is multi-chain by design, meaning institutions can choose which blockchain to issue records to. Blockcerts provides the interoperability framework for records ownership, portability, and verification regardless of which chain is used. It also allows for cryptographic verification of issuer and recipient identity and free, vendor-independent records sharing and verification. No other solution has all of these properties.

How the solution demonstrates 'privacy by design':

Blockcerts incorporates privacy by design in the following ways: 

- Minimal on-chain data

- No document data stored on-chain

- One-way document hash means document contents cannot be reconstructed from on-chain data

- Recipient opt-in process

- Cryptographically-secured, hierarchic deterministic recipient Credential Wallet (Blockcerts Wallet) 

- Full recipient discretion over when and how credentials are shared

- No web hosting of sensitive credentials 

- Offline credential storage & sharing

- Ability to delete records permanently

- Transition toward Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs) in line with the evolving W3C specification (which LM CTO is co-developing)

How the solution can be incorporated into digital identification systems:

Blockcerts is "identity agnostic," meaning the standard can be adapted to a wide variety of existing identity and authentication models: centralized, decentralized, PKI-based, self-sovereign, etc. The precise identity requirements of any government would be scoped out with Learning Machine during the proposal development process, should they choose to engage Learning Machine for an enterprise Blockcerts credentialing implementation.

How the solution is 'user-friendly':

The Blockcerts schema allows governments to define their own metadata vocabularies within the records, meaning that fields can be drawn from existing digital id systems and mapped to newly-issued Blockcerts. While many Blockcerts are currently issued using the IMS Open Badges v2 schema, the core specification allows any RDF data model/vocabulary/ontology specified by the user. Some common examples include:

Blockcerts intake, verification, and pre-screening can also be automated and built into existing digital identity systems.

How the solution ensures interoperability:

Blockcerts uses a standard, open file format (JSON) for human- and machine-readability & sharing without any proprietary vendor software. A free, open source Blockcerts Wallet allows recipients to receive, store, share, view, and verify their records instantly and for free, with no vendor dependency. Anyone can verify a Blockcert at any time with no special or proprietary software needed. Blockcerts APIs & reference libraries are open source. The Blockcerts community is also aligned with (and contributing to) the following standards:

How the solution accounts for low connectivity environments and for users with low literacy and numeracy levels:

Blockcerts is a mobile-first technology, meaning records can be transmitted using mobile phones over mobile bandwidth. No special literacy or numeracy skills are required: only the ability to download and use a mobile app and email or SMS. 

Vision over the next three to five years to implement or grow the solution to affect the lives of more people:

Learning Machine is looking for governments interested in implementing digital records at population scale. We have developed an Enterprise Credentialing System designed for Government Ministries looking to give their citizens the most advanced form of digital records available today. We are already scaling in Malta, which is moving from an initial Pilot phase to roll out Blockcerts to all educational institutions in the country. We also work with multi-national institutions like the Caribbean Examinations Council to issue hundreds of thousands of educational credentials in the coming year. It is with partners like this that we achieve real scale and impact. 

About Your Team

How the solution team is organized:

Hybrid of For Profit and Nonprofit

Solution lead:

Other (Please explain below)

Solution leadership:

I am an anthropologist who leads Business Development for Learning Machine.

How many people work on the solution:


Solution age:

3-4 years

The organizations applicants are currently working with:

Blockcerts Open Source Project: 

It's not possible to estimate the total number of individuals and groups building on Blockcerts projects worldwide. Already multiple projects in production. Contributors can be tracked at the Blockcerts Community Forum: 

Learning Machine: 

Learning Machine has customers around the world who license our Issuing System for digital credentials. We do not release total customer numbers, but our customers include the Ministry for Education and Employment in Malta, the Caribbean Examinations Council, the Ministry of Labor in the Bahamas, MIT, Central New Mexico Community College, Tecnologico de Monterrey, University of Bahrain, and others. 

Applicant skills that can attract the different resources needed to succeed and make an impact:

CEO, Chris Jagers: Entrepreneur who has successfully built and exited a previous company (SlideRoom). 

COO, Dan Hughes: Executive with decades of experience building, scaling, and exiting software companies. 

CTO, Kim Duffy: Principal Architect of the Blockcerts Open Standard and Co-Chair of the Credentials Community Group at the W3C that is developing the next generation of digital identity standards. 

SVP Business Development, Natalie Smolenski: Executive & thought leader who has made the market for Learning Machine & generated hockey stick revenue in first 2 years of commercial operation. 

Revenue model:

Learning Machine licenses the world's best-in-class Enterprise Issuing System to institutions and governments that issue digital credentials at scale. Our Issuing System is licensed on a SaaS model, generating annually recurring revenue from customers. 

Partnership Potential

Reason for applying to the Mission Billion Challenge:

The Mission Billion Challenge can help generate exposure for Blockcerts and Learning Machine with governments, who are the primary implementers of digital identity initiatives. 

Key barriers to the solution:

Barrier 1: Lack of understanding of why good digital ID is necessary. 

Barrier 1: Education about the value and importance of digital ID solutions that benefit citizens.

Barrier 2: Fear of new technologies. 

Solution 2: Education about new solutions that are tried and tested.

Barrier 3: Fear of foreign vendors and lock-in. 

Solution 3: Education about LM's commitment to vendor-independent open standards and our track record delivering on our promises.

Barrier 4: Lack of funding. 

Solution 4: Generate political will to allocate budget for Good ID. 

Solution Team

  • Natalie Smolenski SVP Business Development, Learning Machine
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