Top universities join Oasis network
Technology

Top universities partner with privacy-focused blockchain

Berkeley, Cornell and MIT, alongside British universities in Oxford and Cambridge, will build apps and help govern the Oasis Network

A blockchain network that aims to build a “responsible data economy” has announced that some of the world’s most prestigious educational institutions and their blockchain clubs have joined its new university program.

The Oasis Network, which has a stated goal of giving back users’ control and ownership over their personal information, said its Oasis University Program has more than 20 founding members.

Blockchain at Berkeley—where Oasis Labs was founded—and Cornell Blockchain are among the clubs that have joined at launch.

British universities are also well-represented among the list of founding members, with clubs from Cambridge University, the University of Oxford, the London School of Economics, and King’s College London taking part. The Cape Town Cryptocurrencies Club in South Africa, the Australian National University Blockchain Club, as well as societies from the University of Malta, Tsinghua University, and University of Lausanne, among others, have also signed up to the internationally focused initiative.

What the program aims to achieve

Each university will be an active member of the Oasis ecosystem—building apps and helping to govern the network. The program will provide technical support and tuition to students, and deliver direct access to events that champion the importance of responsible data.

The Oasis Foundation’s Jernej Kos explained: “In addition to participating in the network, universities will have the opportunity to foster the growth of a broad and substantive ecosystem focused on building a responsible data economy.

“University teams run local events, take part in tutorials focused on emerging technologies including secure computing, distributed systems, and machine learning, and engaging in the long-term planning of the network.”

Having been a part of the project since “its earliest testnet,” the Oasis Network has been “a great way for our team to learn more about the network and confidential computer technology more broadly,” said Blockchain at Berkeley president Liam DiGregorio.”

Professor Dr. Philipp Sandner, the head of the Frankfurt School Blockchain Center, added: “The Oasis Network is an exciting project, as it combines the benefits of blockchain with data privacy. For that reason, the Frankfurt School Blockchain Center decided to run a node, participate in the network and use it for applied research and practical education.”

Oasis has also forged a partnership with Bison Trails, which will provide technical and staking support to universities ahead of the mainnet’s launch.

“Supporting university blockchain clubs and computer science departments as they engage with the Oasis Network aligns with our mission to democratize access to blockchain technology,” Bison Trails CTO and co-founder Aaron Henshaw said.

Democratizing data

The Oasis Network argues that data is critical to the modern way of life—unlocking new business models, delivering new technological experiences, and even helping to control pandemics. But the team behind this initiative argues that tough questions need to be answered about ownership as data becomes ever more valuable.

In a blog post setting out its vision, the foundation driving the blockchain said: “Currently, both businesses and individuals are finding it challenging to properly control, own, and ultimately monetize their data. It’s becoming increasingly hard for them to participate in a fair, balanced data economy.” 

A decentralized, proof-of-stake blockchain with privacy-focused features, Oasis’ goal is to give users control and ownership of their tokenized data. 

Oasis pointed to research that many Internet users have lost control of their data—pointing to Pew Research that suggests 80% of respondents feel distrust when it comes to how major companies use their personal information. Large-scale data breaches have also affected confidence. The project also warned that data is often underutilized and undervalued—and this will affect the proliferation of daring new projects such as smart cities and autonomous fleets of cars.

“With the Oasis Network we hope to return the internet to the core principles and values it was founded on like openness and inclusiveness, while empowering individuals to retain ownership and extract value from their personal data,” the authors wrote.

Too cool for school

Back at the start of 2020, LinkedIn analyzed data from 660 million professionals and 20 million jobs that showed blockchain is the hard skill that companies need the most.

However, there’s a long way to go before blockchain education is commonplace in universities. Last year, research from Coinbase revealed that just 56% of the world’s top 50 educational institutions offer a course on crypto or blockchain. Although this up from 42% the year before, it seems many universities have lagged behind in offering students the tools they’ll need for the world of work. 

Oasis Network member Cornell University was named the top school in crypto and blockchain education as part of Coinbase’s research.

Updated at 3:40 p.m. on Aug. 14, 2020 to remove reference to MIT.

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C Sephton is a journalist with an interest in cryptocurrencies, personal finance, and financial inclusion—as well as the challenges the crypto industry faces in achieving mainstream adoption. He owns cryptocurrencies.