The pianist was only needed once. The various speakers at the conference Blockchain in Education had prepared themselves to perfection and abided the strict time limit. If they happened to take a bit too long, the piano music sounded kindly yet urgently in the auditorium of the academy building in Groningen. The applications for blockchain in education are endless; this is evident from the conference. In other countries, such as the United States, applications are already ready for use. In the Netherlands, Groningen takes the lead in the field of blockchain in education. The local Rabobank is directly involved.
“A pressure cooker stuffed with short speeches” is what Oetse Wijma, the director of Private Individuals & Private Banking at Rabobank Noordenveld West Groningen calls the morning session. National and international experts came together and the possibilities of blockchain in education were discussed by the speakers with the audience. “Very inspiring”, he adds. “Groningen has set up a great initiative, whose usefulness and necessity are widely recognized.”
Groningen and Rabobank are also very involved in education and developments within education. “There are many students in the city of Groningen. Rabobank has a strong relationship with them and with the educational institutions as well”, says Mark Gerdes, Senior Investment Specialist at Rabobank, from ‘Stad en Midden Groningen’. “The province is very active with practical education as well”, his colleague Wijma adds. “We are very closely involved from Rabobank.”
The involvement in education matches the social character of the bank. “It is great that talented people come to Groningen to study”, says Wijma, “and it is our goal to keep them in the region afterwards. Our economic vitality and employment could benefit from it.” Rabobank wants to compensate the undervalued reputation of the northern region by optimizing the residential and living environment for talents. “Therefore we pay a lot of attention to innovative developments, such as blockchain.” “Rabobank wants to be known as being innovative”, Gerdes also agrees. “We want to participate in the new technological developments.” To inspire people, the bank organizes quarterly customer meetings with the name ‘Vision on the Future’. A few months ago, blockchain was the focus of such a meeting. This is when the ball started to roll. “one thing leads to another”, says Gerdes. “'We decided to form a consortium consisting of various companies, which will study the application of blockchain in education.”
Collaboration in such a consortium is the key to success. The bank's mission is therefore to play a connecting role. A conference like this contributes a lot. “'Such a consortium is not a closed club”, explains Gerdes. “A new party can suddenly decide to join in.” While still in the research phase, it is important to bring the know-how of various parties together. Soon, when the research phase is over, the subject of money will also be put on the table. “It is also convenient to have enough enthusiastic parties in the club, so we can finance the next step together.” Locally, Rabobank Groningen does not have the capacity to provide technical input, but centrally Rabobank has a lot of blockchain knowledge and experience at its headquarters in Utrecht. This includes knowhow about digital identity, security and verification, which is often referred to by the term self-sovereign identity. “This is an essential issue in blockchain”, says Gerdes, “and Rabobank can certainly play an important role on this topic.”