Digital Wallets

A high level overview of digital wallet technology and key technical details.

Digital wallets provide users with a web or mobile app based software vault for their personal information and assets, allowing for IDs, currency, credentials, or assets to be issued, verified, earned, stored, shared, and spent. Digital wallets have become prominent in the financial services industry, allowing individuals to securely store and exchange digital currency and cryptocurrency, and the smartphone device industry allowing individuals to securely store credit cards, drivers licenses, concert tickets, plane tickets, etc.

There are 2 types of digital wallets:

  1. Centralized wallets secured by a platform on behalf of a user

  2. Decentralized wallets secured on decentralized nodes allowing users to fully own and control their data.

Centralized digital wallets (e.g. Apple wallet, Venmo, online banking apps, etc.), are deployed by technology platforms, securely storing the information on behalf of users in their databases. While this is convenient, it lends itself to exploitation, single source database hacks, targeted advertising, spyware, and other risks. It also limits the effectiveness of digital wallets, by fragmenting the information into several wallets inside of walled gardens, which exist separately within each application ecosystem. Many individuals have more than one digital wallet for currency, for example.

Decentralized digital wallets (e.g MetaMask, LearnCard, etc.), can be connected to existing systems and deployed by any platform, securely storing the users information in encrypted nodes on a decentralized network of hosts, so the only individual with access to the data is the user. Hosts of data nodes on decentralized networks cannot access or read the information due to a variety of privacy and encryption techniques, ranging from the use of Verifiable Credentials (VCs) to Decentralized Web Nodes (DWN).

Digital Learner Wallets

While digital wallets are not confined within education, offering value potential in nearly every layer of digital life, they are well-positioned to solve difficult problems for learning and employment. By securing learner and employee identities in connection with VCs in the form of learning history, achievements, badges, skills, and career history, digital wallets provide learners with lifelong skill portfolios verifying for life their human capital assets (i.e. their skills and credentials become a currency for current and future opportunities).

Learning and employment systems that are secured in disconnected and centralized databases, silo learner and employment data, creating problematic ownership models and limiting network effects. Because learners interact with different siloed systems for their traditional schooling, nontraditional education, higher education and employment, understanding lifelong learning, skills, and career pathways is impossible. Through the employment of decentralized digital wallets for learners, however, all of the learning and employment records associated with each learner can be correlated and stored with each individual user, un-siloing the information and allowing for a rich understanding of each user's unified pathway across their lifelong learning an employment continuum. It also allows for this private user information to only be accessible by each individual learner, their guardians, and those individuals they choose to share it with, like teachers and employers, limiting the many risks and issues with centralized data storage.

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