14 Apr 2023
DirectEd training up Africa's next blockchain development cohort
In this week's interview, we sit down with Simon from DirectEd. We unpack their plans to provide employment opportunities through blockchain training across Africa.
Direct development is a strategy used to facilitate economic development by producing goods or services of value to others. In sub-Saharan Africa, there are many talented students who lack the resources to compete for jobs, including those in software development and data analysis, which are highly remunerated occupations worldwide. DirectEd Development Foundation aims to bridge this gap by providing scholarships and training in 21st-century skills for students in Kenya and Ethiopia. The programme is based on three integrated pillars: the use of blockchain technologies, hybrid learning, and industry partnerships.
Blockchain technologies are used to improve the transparency, accountability, and efficiency of the funds used to support the scholarship programme. By using blockchain technology, DirectEd Development Foundation increases the trust in the charity and reduces the loss of money along the way. Hybrid learning combines the strengths of both online education and traditional in-person elements, ensuring that students receive a well-rounded education.
Industry partnerships are essential in ensuring that students have internship experience on their CVs to land entry-level jobs. DirectEd Development Foundation aims to find and work to coordinate internship opportunities for the students graduating from the programme. If successful, some of the scholars will launch successful careers and continue to work for the companies they intern with, and part of their salary during the first year will be sent directly from the company to the foundation to finance future generations of students.
The programme is divided into four phases: onboarding, selection, training, and internship. The onboarding phase involves the onboarding of high school teachers onto a Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI), a type of digital identity based on blockchain technology. The teachers are given the power to issue verifiable credentials containing grades to students. The selection phase involves selecting students based on a combination of past academic performance, self-reported psychometric personality and cognitive tests, motivation letters and interviews, references from teachers and colleagues, and a one-week coding boot camp.
The training programme takes place over 10 weeks following the end of the regular semester, and students receive stipends conditionally on successful completion of milestones that are pre-specified in the smart contract of the scholarship. The internship phase involves finding and coordinating internship opportunities for the students graduating from the programme.
DirectEd Development Foundation (website) has introduced a new innovation that connects Decentralised Identifiers (DIDs) to cryptocurrency wallets, creating self-sovereign identity wallets. Smart contracts can use this bridge to use Verifiable Credentials as conditions. For example, a smart contract could specify that any student that has attended lectures at a Swedish university can receive student stipends each month. DirectEd has a selection process in which students are selected for a programme. A smart contract specifies the school and specific coding course along with the milestone requirements that the student needs to satisfy to receive each batch of their scholarship stipend. All transactions are publicly observable on public blockchains, ensuring full traceability in a meaningful manner. Attaching conditionality to monetary payouts in a safe manner is costly, but using a smart contract removes the middleman, reducing the cost of distribution to a few cents. The cost of setting up and maintaining a cryptocurrency and DID wallet is zero, making it accessible to low-income countries.
Directed will report back to donors using three main approaches: personalised progress pages, an aggregated donor dashboard, and a rigorous impact evaluation.
Personalised progress pages will give donors a short-term view of the difference their donations are making. This approach allows donors to follow individual students on their learning journeys and see their progress over time. Donors who are interested in seeing the specific work of students can access individual progress-tracking pages for scholarship cohorts.
An aggregated donor dashboard is available for donors who want a high-level overview of how their students are doing. This dashboard provides an aggregate view of how scholarship recipients are performing.
Finally, a rigorous impact evaluation approach will be used to assess the long-term impact of the scholarship program. The program will use a Random Controlled Trial (RCT) to compare the outcomes of scholarship recipients with a similar group of students who did not receive scholarships. This will enable Directed to determine the impact of the scholarship program on student outcomes.
To disentangle the impact of the scholarship program from indirect effects (such as spillover effects), larger studies covering multiple schools must be rolled out. This will ensure that the impact of the scholarship program is accurately measured and reported back to donors.
DirectEd is launching an NFT collection that will be proof of donation and unlock certain benefits. The NFT will offer digital art pieces, exclusive event invitations, and real-life recognition. To achieve this, they have collaborated with Caviar.sh, a protocol that specializes in creating automated market makers for non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and their generative AI model, to establish the DirectEd Lions Collection in the form of NFTs. At present, they cannot provide tax receipts to donors, but we plan to apply for 501(c)3 charitable status within the next year, which will enable us to offer tax receipts to all donors.
To acknowledge donors who make substantial contributions, we have categorized our collection into four segments, namely Warrior, Hero, Royal, and God. As the first group of students will be named the Djed Scholars, we are planning to incorporate Djed in the initial scholarship smart contract, which will delay the primary launch until late January, subject to the release of Djed.
The DirectEd Lions collection is designed to serve five separate fundraising rounds, each for a specific school course's distinct cohort of students. In each funding round, we release 1/5 of the total collection by default, and afterward, a new collection is created. During the December soft-launch, only Warrior and Hero tiers are being released.
The Warrior Tier, which includes 20 unique pieces, each with 100 copies, leading to a total of 2000 pieces, is only released in batches of 400 pieces during each fundraiser. A minimum donation of 40 ADA is required to access this tier, and donors will be provided with access to the student's progress page and an invitation to live video events with the students.
On the other hand, the Hero Tier consists of 100 unique Lion Heroes, each accompanied by a student-written lore detailing their legendary rise to fame. Donors who contribute enough to cover an entire scholarship (1000 ADA) will receive one of the Lion Heroes. In addition to access to the student's progress page and an invitation to live video events with the students, donors at this tier level will receive a student-written lore for each individual Hero and an invitation for two to an annual Donor's Dinner at the University of Oxford (with no expiration).
DirectEd is unlike some of the other projects covered in the outpost, buying one of their NFTs is definitely a donation and shouldn't be viewed as an investment. The perks of supporting the project combined with their transparency around how money is allocated at least ensure you receive recognition of your support and certainty of its impact. If the blockchain industry is to grow then significantly more developers are needed to execute ideas. DirectEd are actively working on this project in a way that also has a positive impact on their students' lives.
I am interested to see how they showcase flows of capital and student records on-chain so will be keeping a close eye on their development in the coming months.
Disclaimer: Nothing on this site should be construed as a financial investment recommendation. It’s important to understand that investing is a high-risk activity. Investments expose money to potential loss.