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HEALTH & EDUCATION

Higher Education – 4 Ways Blockchain Will Transform it

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By Alessandro Civati

The biggest challenges to higher education access are prohibitive tuition fees and associated costs. In the US, borrowers owe more than $1.5 trillion in student loans and spend a lifetime repaying their debts. The education sector is always catching up in the race to adapt to new learning opportunities, styles, and technologies. However, a willingness to embrace emerging technology may see the education sector as a whole address longstanding challenges and close the gap to where it should be.

Blockchain is one such technology that has presented several opportunities in addressing challenges, enhancing legitimacy and credibility, and cutting costs. More and more institutions of higher learning are using blockchain technology in different ways. New ways in which blockchain technology can be used in the higher education sector emerge each passing day. One of the popular applications of blockchain has been in issuing digital credentials that facilitate the sharing of verified copies of student qualifications with employers.

The use of blockchain, especially in the long term, will have transformative potential within the sector. There are ambitious use cases of blockchain that are expected to disrupt the entire education ecosystem. Some of the most ambitious uses of blockchain technology in higher education include:

1) Transformation of Record-Keeping – The current state of affairs is that many fake degrees and diplomas are used. People opt to pay up to $1,000 per fake degree certificate and steer clear of paying on average $37,000 per year in tuition fees. People have used these fake degrees to move ahead in their career fields. The verification of degree certificates takes a lot of work since universities have a closed record-keeping system. A blockchain-supported method of storing academic records and transcripts would help save both time and money in verifying qualifications by employers and recruitment bodies. Students would be able to share their records with employers eliminating the need for tedious verification processes. The most prominent use of blockchain in higher education has transformed record-keeping for certificates, diplomas, and degrees. Up to 2% of higher education institutions have reported having deployed blockchain technology. A further 18% of higher education institutions are planning to deploy digital credentialing and use blockchain technology for other areas of student records. The other group employs a wait-and-see approach citing reasons such as the widespread hype, potential risks, and relative immaturity of the blockchain technology.

Blockchain technology is expected to make credentials digital and place the learner in complete control without intermediaries verifying them. Furthermore, the technology can be used to accreditation educational institutions, which is a complex process. The ability of blockchain to improve record-keeping has made it suitable for addressing the many challenges that surround intellectual property (IP) management. Blockchain can be used to determine the uniqueness of an idea or invention and to register IP assets, patents, and copyright.

2) Improve Efficiency of Business Processes – Think about streamlined business processes whereby blockchain technology can be used for virtual records or transcripts. Blockchain technology can be used to create virtual transcripts and records of educational achievement throughout students’ lifetimes. Creating verifiable transcripts spanning an individual’s lifetime can help address issues such as CV fraud, transfers between universities, and the reduction of overheads associated with the verification of credentials. It would also facilitate the seamless inter-state and inter- country movement with academic transcripts and credentials. Blockchain will not only transform record keeping but will also streamline processes making them more efficient.

3) Creation of Market for Digital Assets – Custom cryptocurrencies are available in the higher education sector. A cryptocurrency platform can use a student payments method and process payments that may involve students, governments, financial institutions, and scholarship-granting agencies. There are higher learning institutions that are already using bitcoin as a form of payment. King’s College in New York City is one such university that has accepted bitcoin and, in the process, eliminated credit card transaction fees. It is an excellent example of how digital assets can be used within the sector.

I think this kind of market should be used to support students inside a complementary circuit where a closed coin can be used near the official one. In this way, the value of the educational offer will be preserved, and those who reach better results and distinguish themself for studies will access more benefits. 

Higher Education - 4 Ways Blockchain Will Transform it - by Alessandro Civati

4) Disruptive Business Models – Whereas blockchain adoption in higher education has focused on record-keeping and enhanced efficiency, the technology’s real power is creating new business models. One such disruptive business model has been adopted by Woolf University, which seeks to become a blockchain-powered institution with no borders. The university aims to use blockchain and smart contracts as the foundation of the relationship between teaching staff and students. If successful, the new education platform can become disruptive – lowering tuition fees, automation of administrative tasks and reducing administrative overheads, increased faculty remuneration, and securing records for faculty and students. Lecturers can choose to be paid in their local currencies or Woolf tokens.

The open-source university model would have students benefit from standardized education opportunities irrespective of their location around the globe. Blockchain would offer a one- stop-shop at reasonable prices for different courses and a unified blockchain database to store verifiable credentials.

Blockchain is changing some of the problems that have proven difficult to address using traditional technologies. Prominent areas of blockchain use are in business process streamlining and universally accessible certifications. I believe that new hybrid solutions between blockchain, ai, and machine learning will forever revolutionize the educational system.

Alessandro Civati is the CEO LutinX Inc. – Blockchain for Education


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EDITORIAL

Islamic Finance Shaping the Future: A Reflection on the International Summit on Financing Primary Healthcare Infrastructure in Nigeria

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On November 30th, 2023, the International Summit on Financing Primary Healthcare Infrastructure in Nigeria took center stage in Abuja, bringing together global leaders, financial experts, and healthcare professionals to deliberate on a critical theme: “Islamic Finance: Exploring New Sources of Financing for Primary Healthcare Transformation in Nigeria.” This landmark event, which was organized by DUKE Consult Limited in strategic collaboration with the Africa Islamic Economic Foundation, Ghana and Glocal Healthcare Systems Ltd, India, marked a significant step towards addressing the healthcare infrastructure challenges in Nigeria through innovative and sustainable financing mechanisms.

The Urgency of Healthcare Infrastructure Transformation

Nigeria, like many other developing nations, faces substantial challenges in its healthcare infrastructure. The need for adequate facilities, skilled healthcare professionals, and sustainable funding mechanisms has become increasingly urgent, especially in the wake of global health crises. The summit recognized that achieving robust primary healthcare infrastructure is pivotal to ensuring the well-being of the population and addressing health disparities.

Islamic Finance as a Catalyst for Change

The choice of Islamic finance as the central theme reflects a strategic move towards diversifying sources of funding for healthcare infrastructure. Islamic finance principles, rooted in ethical and equitable financial practices, provide an alternative framework for generating funds. By exploring these principles, Nigeria aims to tap into new avenues that align with its cultural values while fostering inclusive economic development.

Key Discussions and Agreements

The summit facilitated in-depth discussions on the potential of Islamic finance to transform Nigeria’s primary healthcare infrastructure. Attendees deliberated on the principles of Islamic finance, such as risk-sharing, profit and loss sharing, and ethical investment, as tools for shaping a more sustainable healthcare future.

One of the primary outcomes was the establishment of collaborative initiatives between the public and private sectors, leveraging Islamic finance instruments to fund healthcare projects. The summit also saw the formation of partnerships with international organizations and financial institutions, showcasing a commitment to shared responsibility in addressing Nigeria’s healthcare challenges.

Emphasizing Inclusivity and Cultural Sensitivity

An essential aspect of the summit was the emphasis on inclusivity and cultural sensitivity in healthcare financing. Recognizing that Islamic finance aligns with Nigeria’s cultural and religious values, the summit underscored the importance of tailoring financial mechanisms to the specific needs and beliefs of the population. This approach ensures that healthcare development is not only economically sustainable but also culturally resonant, promoting widespread acceptance and participation.

Looking Forward          

The International Summit on Financing Primary Healthcare Infrastructure in Nigeria has set a precedent for innovative and inclusive approaches to addressing healthcare challenges. As Nigeria strives to achieve its healthcare transformation goals, the incorporation of Islamic finance principles serves as a beacon for other nations facing similar challenges.

In conclusion, the summit marked a pivotal moment in Nigeria’s journey towards sustainable healthcare development. By exploring new sources of financing rooted in ethical principles, the country is forging a path towards a healthier, more resilient future. As the initiatives launched at the summit unfold, they have the potential not only to transform healthcare infrastructure but also to serve as a model for other nations seeking innovative financing solutions in the pursuit of universal health coverage.


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HEALTH & EDUCATION

Highlights of the One Day International Summit on Financing Primary Healthcare Infrastructure in Nigeria

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By our special correspondent

A one-day international Summit on Financing Primary Healthcare Infrastructure in Nigeria under the theme: Islamic Finance: Exploring New Sources Of Financing For Primary Healthcare Transformation in Nigeria was held in Abuja, the Capital of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the 30th of November, 2023, at the NICON Luxury Hotel, under the distinguished Chairmanship of His Excellency, Senator Ibrahim Shekarau, former Executive Governor of Kano State.

The groundbreaking event, which was organized by DUKE Logistics & Consult (Nigeria) Limited, Abuja, in strategic collaboration with the Africa Islamic Economic Foundation, Ghana and Glocal Healthcare Services Limited, India, was held to explore innovative healthcare financing models that leverage Islamic finance instruments such as sukuk (Islamic bonds), waqf (endowments), and takaful (Islamic insurance), etc. in providing sustainable and long-term financing for primary healthcare transformation in Nigeria; and to foster collaboration between the various states of the federation to share best practices and experiences in leveraging Islamic finance for healthcare projects.

The summit featured keynote speeches and discussions on various topics related to Islamic finance, healthcare infrastructure development and digital health solutions: The role of Islamic Finance in healthcare Infrastructure Development in Nigeria, by Prof. Ahmad bello Dogarawa of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; Digital Health Solutions Innovation: The Glocal Story, by Mr Shailesh Kumar, of the Glocal Healthcare Systems Limited, India; Digital Health Transformation: Opportunities & Challenges, by Hon Dr Abdel Majeed Haroun, former Minister of Agriculture, Republic of Ghana; Africa Healthcare Infrastructure Program (AHIDEP), by Hajiya Aishatu Usman Muhammad of the Gombe State University, Gombe, The foregoing presentations were supported with expert and insightful discussions by Dr Aisha Ahmed, an Islamic Finance expert and consultant, Abuja and Mr. Muhammad Lawal Shu’aibu, CEO, LCM Consult Limited Abuja.

One of the key discussions revolved around the role of Islamic Finance in healthcare infrastructure development in Nigeria. Participants delved into the potential of Islamic Finance to provide sustainable funding for the construction and maintenance of healthcare facilities. This topic explored innovative financing models that align with the principles of Islamic Finance, such as waqf (endowment) and sukuk (Islamic bonds).

Another captivating topic discussed at the summit was “Digital Health Solutions Innovation: The Glocal Story.” The term “Glocal” refers to the combination of global and local perspectives. The Summit focused on the Glocal Story, which highlighted its cutting-edge digital health solutions that bridge the gap between global advancements and local healthcare needs. Experts shared success stories, case studies, and best practices, showcasing how technology can revolutionize healthcare delivery in Nigeria by improving access, affordability, and quality of care.

Furthermore, the summit covered the topic of “Digital Health Transformation: Opportunities and Challenges.” This presentation highlighted the importance of adapting digital health solutions to the specific needs and contexts of Nigeria. It addressed how these innovations can improve healthcare accessibility, efficiency, and quality, particularly in underserved areas. Participants explored the potential benefits and challenges associated with digital health transformation in Nigeria. They examined how technological advancements, such as telemedicine, electronic health records, and artificial intelligence, can revolutionize healthcare delivery and management in the country.

The presentation of the Africa Healthcare Infrastructure Development Program, the flagship initiative of the Africa Islamic Economic Foundation, offered participants a glimpse of the functions of the Program. The presentation shows that AHIDEP is a great platform to connect with international organizations and investors who are interested in supporting healthcare initiatives in Nigeria. However, to showcase the importance and potential of a healthcare project to potential investors, potential beneficiaries would have to prepare a comprehensive proposal outlining their healthcare infrastructure development goals, strategies, and the potential impact.

The discussions also touched upon the importance of involving stakeholders and ensuring efficient management of healthcare infrastructure projects. Furthermore, the discussions elucidated in detail how Islamic finance can support the innovation and implementation of digital health solutions tailored to the Nigerian context. The conversation revolved around leveraging technologies like telemedicine, mobile health applications, and electronic health records to enhance access to healthcare services, especially in remote areas. The importance of collaborations between local and international stakeholders for effective digital health transformation was also emphasized.

Overall, this one-day event, the international summit on financing primary healthcare infrastructure in Nigeria provided a platform for experts, policymakers, and stakeholders to discuss strategies and explore new sources of financing for primary healthcare transformation in Nigeria. It showcased the potential of Islamic Finance as a viable option and emphasized the importance of digital health solutions in shaping the future of healthcare in the country.


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HEALTH & EDUCATION

Investments in Digital Can Accelerate Improvements in Health Care

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Digital technology can strengthen health systems, improve health financing and public health, and increase reach to underserved populations, according to a new World Bank report launched today. The report also finds that digital technology and data are especially helpful to prevent and manage chronic diseases, care for both young and aging populations, and prepare for future health emergencies and health risks triggered by climate change.

The report, Digital-in-Health: Unlocking the Value for Everyone, was launched today during the G20 Health Ministers Meeting in Gandhinagar, India. It presents a new way of thinking from simple digitization of health data to fully integrating digital technology in health systems: Digital-in-health. This means, for example, infusing digital technologies in health financing, service delivery, diagnostics, medical education, pandemic preparedness, climate and health efforts, nutrition, and aging.

The report also underscores that the successful use of digital technologies must be inclusive of all population groups, and ensure access to digital infrastructure, modern technologies, and skills, especially for vulnerable people.

Designed with people at the center, digital technology can make health services more personal, prevent healthcare costs from increasing, reduce differences in care, and make the job easier for those who provide health services,” said Mamta Murthi, Vice President for Human Development, World Bank. “We hope that this report will give governments confidence and practical guidance, regardless of the country’s stage of digital maturity or fiscal challenges.

Improving health is getting harder, not easier. Health systems face serious and growing challenges and policy decisions are too often not based on reliable data.  It is estimated that some countries use less than 5% of health data to improve health which means that decisions are not based on data or data is not used effectively to make improvements. Within challenging fiscal environments, people-centered and evidence-based digital investments can help governments save up to 15% of health costs. The report presents pragmatic, low-cost actions to improve digital-in-health, no matter the maturity of a country’s systems or digital infrastructure. For example, better health data governance and standards to ensure systems can readily connect and exchange information are not costly but will be game changing in reducing siloed digital solutions and fragmentation.

In India, we have shown that digital innovations such as tele-consultations have reached more than 140 million people and provided accessible, affordable and efficient healthcare for everyone,” said Mansukh L Mandaviya, Minister for Health and Family Welfare, India. “We believe a digital-in-health approach can unlock the value of digital technologies and data and has the potential to prevent disease and lower healthcare costs while helping patients monitor and manage chronic conditions.” 

To help countries embrace a digital-in-health approach, the report proposes three essential areas to guide investments:

  1. Prioritize evidence-based digital investments that tackle the biggest problems and focus on the needs of patients and providers.
  2. Connect the regulatory, governance, information, and infrastructure dots so that patients know that data is safe and health workers can use digital solutions transparently.
  3. Scale digital health for the long run based on trust with sustainable financing, and improved capacity and skills for digital solutions.

It will take global, regional, and country leadership to make digital-in-health a reality. The report recommends strong country leadership involving all relevant sectors and stakeholders, including civil society. Digital technology and data improvements will involve investments beyond the health sector and new partnerships with the private sector. A digital-in-health mindset needs to be a routine aspect of annual health system planning, budgeting, and implementation.

The World Bank is committed to helping low-and middle-income countries to make digital-in-health a reality to improve health for everyone. Over the past decade, the World Bank has invested almost $4 billion in digital health including in health information systems, digital governance, identification systems, and infrastructure.


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