Saturday, February 11, 2017

Making NAD successful

The National Academic Depository Bill requires all educational institutions in India to store their student credentials with SEBI approved depositories (presently limited to NSDL and CDSL). This Bill came about in response to the menace of fake degrees and certificates being presented in order to secure employment / admissions by unscrupulous entities. The Bill seeks to create central repositories where potential employers can verify the authenticity of candidate's educational credentials. This is a laudatory objective, given how rampant the problem of fake credentials and certificates is, in India.

The Govt of India is keen to get this rolled out quickly (see here and here), and the HRD minister seems keen as well.

Some observations:

1) Implementing the NAD is a massive Operational Challenge. Unless an eco-system is put in place, its adoption / implementation is unlikely to happen within a reasonable frame of time. While the depositories are large organizations and they have the backing of the law, it is unrealistic to expect them to have the man-power or the reach to connect with and bring on-board every single educational institution in the country.

2) Most of the initiatives under Digital India have focused on creating 'eco-systems' rather than a single entity becoming responsible for entire implementation. Probably the best example is the UIDAI, which has published Aadhaar 'APIs' or Application Programming Interfaces, that allow third parties to build applications and reach out to end-users. This is the single most important factor in the rapid adoption and success of Aadhaar based programs, and credit is due to the visionary leadership of UIDAI. If UIDAI had taken upon itself the responsibility of building every single application and attending to every single customer, it's unlikely the Aadhaar program would have been as successful as it has been. Another excellent example is the UPI interface, which will allow parties to build payment related applications for specific customer verticals / use-cases.

3) Educational Institutions are likely to require training / hand-holding in the adoption stages as well as on an on-going basis if they are to participate in the NAD. Educational credentials are generated semi-annually (at least), so in addition to initial on-boarding, educational institutions will need to process educational credentials for NAD at least two times annually. A large number of service providers in the education space already work with educational institutions all over India. (Truecopy Credentials is one of them). The Depositories should probably consider leveraging this existing eco-system to quickly enhance the adoption of NAD. Would it not be a win-win for all parties? (Depositories quickly build up their database, Educational Institutions get the on-premise service they need, and service providers earn a business - thereby providing more employment).

To summarize, the Depositories should consider exclusive focus on building out the backend technology and an API (Just like UIDAI). They should publish this API (can be of "paid-subscription" variety) and then train & qualify service providers to work with educational institutions. These service providers would effectively become stake-holders in growth and propagation of the system. With such an ecosystem in place, there is a good chance that most educational institutions in India would become part of the NAD within 2 years. 

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