Many students in Africa do not have the means to realise their full potential. Donation services lack efficiency, transparency and security.
Scholarship/donation platform based on Atala PRISM enabling secure, low-cost, conditional peer-to-peer donations to students.
This is the total amount allocated to DirectEd-Student Scholarship Portal
For all students in Africa to be able to further their education and realise their full potential, regardless of their draw in the lottery of life.
Many talented students in low-income countries lack the economic means to realise their potential, but philanthropists hesitate to donate. The impact of their funds is unclear, but attaching conditionality to ensure that funds are used for their intended purpose is costly. Administrative costs are also high due to high transfer costs and the need for having several middlemen. DirectEd solve these problems by combining the power of decentralised identities and blockchain technology to provide a transparent, secure, and low-cost means of making conditional peer-to-peer donations directly to students.
Problem and Solution
Problem 1: Education is widely agreed to be a crucial factor in a country's economic development, but despite its importance, it is generally underfunded and deprioritised. Part of the reason for this is the difficulty of assessing the causal impact of more education. Also, interest rates are extremely high typically in the two digits range  and it is not uncommon to see interest rates well over 100% (e.g. Malawi ), which leads to fewer students from poor backgrounds pursuing a tertiary degree.
Solution. By focusing on poorer regions where all students otherwise wouldn't be able to study at university we target our relevant group. To assess the impact of our program, we will use a scientifically rigorous impact analysis, which we will develop together with our advisors.
Problem 2: Crowdfunding and donations services give opportunities to those who have none. However, they are often inefficient due to many middlemen, high transfer costs, and high costs for ensuring eligibility of recipients. They also lack transparency, i.e. you do not know exactly what your donation is being used for.
Solution. By processing donations directly through the Cardano network, and distributing them to individuals verified with DIDs, obstacles such as mistrust, fraud and administrative costs can be greatly reduced.
Problem 3: As previously mentioned, many donation services lack efficiency and transparency, which has decreased trust amongst donors. Blockchain technology could solve these issues, but using this technology for donation services is uncharted territory , which means that trust is low and must be built up.
Solution. Through pilot projects, and collaboration with several universities in the region, DirectEd will help teach recipient and donors about the benefits of using blockchain technology, which will also generate trust towards Cardano.
 International Monetary Fund, International Financial Statistics and data files. "Sub-Saharan Africa (IFC classification)” Accessed 14 03 2022. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/FR.INR.LEND?locations=C9
 MicroLoan Foundation. “Interest rates. Accessed 14 03 2022. https://www.microloanfoundation.org.uk/Files/0910 Interest Rates.pdf
Link to roadmap in Github: https://github.com/users/bubblyc/projects/1/views/1
Process flow in Miro: https://miro.com/app/board/uXjVOKD9W-A=/
Research papers and technical specifications: Research Papers & Tech Spec
Step by Step Process
This is a description of the process flow in chronological order, from DirectEd identifying relevant high schools, to students receiving scholarships.
The platform's 3 main components
Our website will link to a portal, where users will be able to log in using SSI OAuth 2.0 (students and schools) or on NFT-enabled access (donors).
Unique Selling Points
There are a number of crypto and non-crypto donation platforms out there. We stand out in five main ways.
Possible donor segments are individuals, companies, foundations and institutions. Initially, we are primarily targeting individuals from the crypto community, especially the Cardano community. The reason for this is because we see high potential in this segment, and since organisations take longer to persuade. Individuals from the crypto community will have a greater understanding of the mechanisms involved. Due to the general growth of cryptocurrencies, there are also considerable funds available in this segment.
We will also seek to partner up with charitable stake pools. Many of them donate a portion of their profits to a good cause. We believe we can find strong synergies with pools as we are a Cardano project and delegators will be able to verify that donations have gone where they were supposed to go.
Value-added for Cardano
This project also lead to several benefits for Cardano, on top of what has been mentioned so far. Cryptocurrency requires trust and a lot of understanding, and has a relatively high barrier to entry. By onboarding educational institutions and schools, we gain the trust of these institutions, which provides a clear stepping-stone for IOHK and the Cardano Foundation to leverage the trust to sign large-scale deals with governments to build their infrastructure. The scholarship also gives strong incentives for young African students to invest time and effort into learning about it. Moreover, field studies on the adoption of microcredit have been shown to be heavily contingent on trust in the credit institution. This means that the scholarship will create familiarity to Cardano and thus constitute a stepping-stone for crypto-based microfinance in the future.
The longer vision of DirectEd
We also hope to develop DirectEd by partnering up with education platforms/providers and industry partners. One model would be that firms looking for specific skills in workers that they cannot find specifies a scholarship (smart contract) that contain conditions for eligibility (e.g. sciences high school student, good grades), milestones, and scholarship amount. This could be a short 8 week digital course over summer. Students who complete all the milestones are then able to directly apply to get a 12 months internship-work job contract. This creates a more direct and relevant educational journey and reduces the resource waste stemming from learning that is not closely tied to the needs of the labour market . Specifically, we could also set up scholarships for learning blockchain development. If Cardano is to become the backbone of the digital infrastructure in Africa then a lot of developers will be needed. Our platform would give learners clear paths to employment, provide incentive mechanisms, and give firms assurance that their funds are being put to good use.
Other use-cases that we may pivot towards
Though our technology will first only be applied to scholarships, the underlying technology has many use-cases that we aim to pivot towards once the scholarship platform has been set up.
IP and legal status
As our main contribution lies in the smart contract functionality, the core of our project will be open-sourced. We believe in the principle of open-sourcing all of our code and will seek to do so as soon as our business model matures.
We have not incorporated but intend to incorporate as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation in the UK. We may start NGOs in Kenya and Ethiopia or partner with existing ones, depending on our needs. For other use-cases mentioned above, we may start separate legal entities.
By creating a high functioning scholarship platform based on Cardano’s blockchain technology we will attract new users to Cardano on both the recipient side and the donor side. Students and teachers will join Cardano’s ecosystem to partake in the scholarship program, and this will lead to an increase in the number of issuers, holders, and verifiers of DIDs. The scholarship program will enable students in the community to develop and grow by furthering their studies, and this will likely lead to long term effects like an increased employment in qualified jobs, e.g. teachers, entrepreneurs, and experts, and this can lead to a positive snowball effect for society and Cardano.
We have chosen to split this project into two proposals — this one, which is in the “Self-Sovereign Identity” fund, and another one https://cardano.ideascale.com/c/idea/400019, which is in the “DApps and Integrations” fund. The reason for the split is that our product has two entities which are clearly separate and valuable in their own right.
This proposal (DirectEd-Student Scholarship Platform) concerns functionalities that are associated with verifiable credentials and the recipient (student and university) side of the platform, as well as all activities relating to partnerships in Africa.
The proposal “DirectEd - Donations DApp”, (which is in the “DApps and Integrations” fund) concerns functionalities that are associated with smart contracts and the donor side of the platform, as well as all activities related to market analysis and marketing.
If we get funding for one proposal and not the other we will need to apply for funding again in fund 9.
In the timeline below we have marked the activities in Phase 2 with “(DApps proposal)” or “(SSI proposal)” to show in which proposal the activity is budgeted for. We have only marked the activities in Phase 2 since we are only applying for funding to cover this phase.
Current work in progress
Phase 2 (this proposal)
Q3: July 2022 - September 2022
Q4: October 2022 - December 2022
Phase 3 (not this proposal)
Q1 2023: January 2023 - March 2023
Q2 2023 and beyond
This budget covers all expenses for our Self-Sovereign Identity proposal in Phase 2 (6 months, July 2022-December 2022).
Self-Sovereign Identity proposal budget
3 smart contract/backend engineers (1 full-time and 2 part-time).
Research, management, marketing, design and partnerships
We will have three team members working full time and part time during different periods for which the funding we are requesting, averaging 10h/week for the entire period.
Ethiopia/Kenya partnerships and operations
Our two country leads work part-time and we estimate they will work on average 5 hours/week seen over the entire period.
CEO. MPhil in Economics (University of Oxford), particular focus on the labour market and education in developing nations. Former President of Lund Debate Society. https://www.linkedin.com/in/simon-sällström-3659b616b/
Smart contract lead. MASt in pure Mathematics (Trinity College, University of Cambridge). MSc in Mathematics and Foundations of Computer Science (University of Oxford). Atala PRISM & Plutus Pioneer. https://www.linkedin.com/in/rohan-mitta-239029173/
Kenya lead. Medical Laboratory Scientist at Mater Misericordiae Hospital. BS.c. Medical laboratory sciences (Kenyatta University). Founder of Save a youth Africa - an independent, non-partisan, non-profit organization working in the field of Youth Sexual & Reproductive Health for women in high school. Part of Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative, 2019 cohort. https://www.linkedin.com/in/moses-kahure-9b7a5317b/
Ethiopia lead. Lecturer at Kotebe University of Education. MA in Urban and Regional Development Planning (Addis Ababa University). PhD candidate in Socioeconomic Development Planning and Environment (Addis Ababa University). Part of Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative, 2019 cohort. https://www.linkedin.com/in/fasika-belay-7a78184a/
Developer. IT consultant. MSc Computer Science and Engineering (Lund University). Plutus Pioneer. Proficient in Java, Python, C, C, Haskell. Other: SQL, Matlab, OpenFOAM, Git. https://www.linkedin.com/in/fabian-friberg-057643176/
Developer. MSc Computer Science and Engineering candidate (Lund University). Atala PRISM pioneer. Proficient in Java, Python, Haskell. Other: Django, SQL. https://www.linkedin.com/in/ceciliayixihuang/
Sten Georgii Hellberg
Strategy, sales, and marketing. Experience working in several start-ups. MSc Industrial Engineering (Lund University). https://www.linkedin.com/in/sten-georgii-hellberg-79020497/
Admin. BSc in International Business student (Lund University). https://www.linkedin.com/in/mio-hjerpe-241bb0225/
Partnerships and collaborations
Our country leads have so far had informal discussions with four institutions with very positive response - two high schools and two universities. Some pictures from our visit to Kagumo High is attached. We are in the process of formalising this in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding.
Discussion to integrate their existing teacher onboarding and issuance of verifiable credentials. fund 7 winners
Gero wallet and Kotani Pay
We are discussing venues for collaboration between Gero wallet and Kotani pay to enable a seamless off-ramp (convert ADA to fiat) solution and DID-crypto wallet integration.
DirectEd is currently part of the first cohort of the IOHK sponsored Africa-focused incubator for Catalyst funded proposals. https://ioincubator.com/
DirectEd is part of Oxford only pre-seed startup incubator https://www.ox1incubator.com/
Discussions regarding future venues for collaboration, integrating our scholarships with their decentralised digital-skills and employment focused education platform https://cardano.ideascale.com/c/idea/381053
Research lead at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Development. affiliated with Nuffield College, the Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), and the Mind & Behaviour Research Group. Before my current role at the Martin School, I was a Postdoctoral Prize Research Fellow in the Department of Economics. His current fieldwork focuses on Ethiopia. https://www.chrmeyer.com/pages/about
UNESCO Chair on Large-Scale Higher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa. Professor in Computer and Systems Sciences, Stockholm University. PhD in Mathematics. 20 years’ experience of project and program management. Worked with EU, World Bank, Sida, UNIDO, WHO, Nuffic, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC and Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a multitude of countries, including education, policy formation, technical infrastructure development. https://people.dsv.su.se/~lovek/
Professor of Economics, Stockholm University. Prize Fellow in Economics, Harvard University, former assistant professor in economics at Princeton University. Founder of Busara Center for Behavioural Economics, Nairobi. https://haushofer.ne.su.se/
Founder of Saffa global - sustainability and ESG consultancy firm. Founder and director of Multiple NGOs, including Global director for Global women for good, Think Ocean and IntelliAqua. https://www.linkedin.com/in/noleenm/
M.S. Electrical Engineering, Stanford University. 25+ years of work experience in both large multinational companies and startup projects. More than 40 years of self-taught programming with advanced knowledge on many coding languages. Atala PRISM pioneer, Community Advisor and member of the challenge team for “F7: Grow Latin America, Grow Cardano”. Part of several projects working on DID infrastructure for Cardano. https://www.linkedin.com/in/rodolfomiranda/
Yoram Ben Zvi
20+ years of business experience working with technology companies (strategy, partnerships, investors). In the last years, Yoram is focused on combining impact and business. 4 years ago he left his comfort zone and worked for 2 years for an NGO Earthworm.org focusing on sustainable business models across agriculture supply chains. Community Advisor, proposer and active contributor to AIM and Cardano4Climate. https://www.linkedin.com/in/yoram-ben-zvi-446836/
We publish monthly progress updates, continuous KPI tracking, research papers, and more on our public Notion page: https://www.notion.so/directed/DirectEd-4a84fe7c756c45cfb7c48ec30ff5f3b5
Later phase KPIs:
Success for Phase 2 would be to have completed an MVP that enables donations to be sent and received through smart contracts conditional on receipt of verifiable credentials, accessible for testing through our completed browser dApp and MoU signed with our partner institutions in Kenya and Ethiopia.
See timeline for Phase 2 previously in the text.
Past proposal: https://cardano.ideascale.com/c/idea/369558
We first received funding in Fund 6 for our phase 1 objectives. This proposal is a continuation of our project and is aimed at funding our phase 2 objectives.
Detailed information on deliverables and KPIs from past proposal:
Our main objectives for phase 1 were:
Detailed information on deliverables and KPIs from our past proposal can be found here:
Fund 6 ideafest presentation https://drive.google.com/file/d/1wparX7RLQlcykZuTR8qSIgqn93N7hkhH/view?usp=sharing
Simon has independently been funded for Oxford student hub ($7590) in fund 7,
Research dApp ($480) in fund 6, https://cardano.ideascale.com/a/dtd/Research-dApp/369582-48088 (completed)
Employment dApp ($600) in fund 6 https://cardano.ideascale.com/c/idea/369587 (completed)
Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
4.3 By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university
4.4 By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship
4.5 By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations
4.b By 2020, substantially expand globally the number of scholarships available to developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States and African countries, for enrolment in higher education, including vocational training and information and communications technology, technical, engineering and scientific programmes, in developed countries and other developing countries
Oxford graduates (maths/comp sci, economics). Plutus & Atala PRISM Pioneers. Community advisor. Addis Ababa University PhD candidate. Young African Leaders Initiative members. OX1 and IO incubators. Senior advisory board (academic, ICT dev, entrepreneurship, management, impact).