We’ve covered in a previous article what a digital credential is. In short, digital credentials are a proof of qualification, competence or clearance, that is attached to a person.

This is a vast definition, however. In this article, we’ll try to give some examples of what we consider worth of getting a credential.

Proof of qualification

A proof (“determination of the quality of something by testing, trial”) of qualification (“A quality, ability, or accomplishment that makes a person suitable for a particular position or task”) could be regarded as things related to knowledge (and possible ability to act as a result of this knowledge) on some particular topic.

Because it is a proof, it has to be tested by a person or a group of people, or even a system.

Typically, this is where we will categorize academical or formal education items that are taught with that objective in mind.

Although diplomas are the most usual and recognized proofs of qualification, in a context of digital credentials, they tend to be considered too wide in scope. One academical diploma will usually represent dozens of skills learnt.

So let’s give a few examples of what a proof of qualification could be in a digital credential context:

  • Academical diploma (although too wide in scope)
    • for short term education (1 year)
    • for medium term education (2-3 years)
    • for long term education (4-5 years)
    • PhD, Masters and other high-level education (duration varies widely)
  • Formal professional training certificate
    • New product details knowledge
    • First-Aid training certificate
    • New laws in application for my industry
  • Personal certificates for “common” activities
    • Theory driving rules (tested by the corresponding transport authority)
    • Driving license (although driving is a practical competence, you get a proof of qualification for it when done through the proper channels) (divided into categories of vehicles)
    • Flying license (divided into categories of aircraft)
    • Skydiving
    • Stock market trading

Competenc(i)es

Competences can be understood as “the ability to do something well or efficiently”, or “a range of skill or ability” or “a specific ability or skill”. If we compare it to a proof of qualification”, we are talking more concrete, but less officially recognized, abilities here.

Where a proof of qualification suggests a real document, generated by an official authority of some sort, a competence is, simply put, the fact that you are able to do something well (or efficiently). In its fundamentals, it doesn’t require an “official authority” to confirm this (we lose the concept of “proof”). But getting any kind of acknowledgement from other people that you are competent in something will make other people’s confidence in your competence grow.

This is probably one of the widest applications of digital credentials, because it decentralizes recognition of competences, from existing “authorities” to “the comunity”. In practice, this already exists in non-digitalized form: the person in your family that knows best about computers will be the reference to talk to when making any computer-related decision. That person gains in authority through the sheer recognition of the rest of the family. This reputation can later spread out of the family circle as the competence is confirmed over many informal experiences, comparable to “testing” this person’s competence. Same thing with the most competent cook in your family. People will prefer asking that person for information when deciding upon some cooking activity.

Although these competences are less formal, they are not less important. They might sometimes apply more to the personal life than to the professional life, but this is rarely the case. The ability for someone to be useful in some very specific aspects of life will always be useful, one way or another, in your professional life.

Recognizing those competences, if it was made easy through simple-to-use tools, would allow companies to build teams that have much better collaboration perspectives and would allow people to more swiftly understand if they would fit in their next company or not.

Recognizing them would also be a good way to thank someone, by acknowledging to the world that you rely on them for specific decisions. When crowdsourced, this has the potential to more easily help establish leaders in communities, large or small.

  • Ability to swim (may be divided in different lengths and may be formally recognized)
  • Ability to drive a car
  • Ability to ride a bicycle, a bike, a skateboard, etc
  • Ability to build stuff / maintain the house / to take care of plants / of pets
  • Ability to listen to people
  • Ability to draw
  • Willingness to help others

Clearances

A clearance is an “official certification of blamelessness, trustworthiness or suitability”. This is usually to authorize someone to do something. This doesn’t necessarily represent any knowledge of anything, but rather, as shown by the definition, a recognition based on trust (someone trusts someone else to do something well enough) or suitability (this is a person that, because of any set of parameters, is considerable suitable to do the job). Suitability, in particular, could be related to specific physical characteristics. For example, a person in a wheelchair might not be able to do a task with a machine that was not designed properly. The contrary might also be true.

So examples of clearances might be:

  • Authorization to see specific, confidential documents (based on trust and suitability)
  • Authorization to sign documents or decide on behalf of someone else (based on trust and suitability)
  • Authorization to enter specific dangerous areas (based on suitability) or areas where confidential information is kept (based on trust)
  • Authorization to handle specific equipments (usually based on a previous proof of qualification)

Being credential-able

As we’ve seen in the previous sections, a very wide scope of proofs of qualification, competences and clearances can be considered as credentials.

As digitalization takes a larger grasp of more of our society’s information, we have to think about how all these common elements of our daily lives can improve our way of thinking, sharing and putting these credential-able things to good use.

The question is not *if* those elements will finally be represented in a digital format, but *when* they will, and how we will maintain control of all of this information to both respect individual privacy and use those elements to improve our quality of life.