The company behind the cryptocurrency Cardano has struck a non-binding “memorandum of understanding” with the Georgian Ministry of Education and Science, which hopes to integrate blockchain technology into its services and advance its goal of becoming a “tech business hub.”
Input Output, or IOHK, one of the three companies that support the development of the peer-reviewed blockchain protocol and cryptocurrency, announced that the collaboration would last two years and would be principally focused on tamper-proofing the country’s expanding university system, according to a press release published on “Cryptoninja.”
Cardano will also supposedly assist Georgia’s blockchain focused FinTech startups, improve the security of its “confidential data,” integrate “smart contract functionality” into government services and, opaquely, “support the Ministry’s current work to ensure qualifications from Georgian universities are comparable with higher-education qualifications across European.” (We have reached out for comment on what this means, and will update with any response.)
The partnership has been framed as the next step in Georgia's ongoing clean-up of the morass of corruption left over from its days as a Soviet satellite state—in which up to $30 million was reportedly spent on bribing university officials each year.
Georgia’s minister of Education, Health, Culture and Sport Mikheil Batiashvili said that he was “hopeful that leveraging IOHK’s world-leading expertise, particularly in 3rd generation blockchain technology, will help [Georgia] to progress even further toward our goal of being the world’s leading country for secure, digitally-enabled international business.”
Exciting, right? Yes to an extent, though this sort of deal happens fairly regularly. Indeed, IBM’s blockchain outfit brokered a similar deal with the government of Azerbaijan some days ago, according to Yahoo News. Meanwhile, the US customs and border protection agency is reportedly collaborating with blockchain startup Factom to develop a blockchain-based shipment tracking system. And Cardano itself joined forces with the Ethiopian government last year to trial a blockchain solution for farmers.
Georgia, however, may be particularly fertile ground for blockchain-startup growth. Five percent of the intensely blockchain-curious country’s households reportedly mine cryptocurrency, and the government has already partially developed a vast land registry in conjunction with bitcoin mining giant BitFury—which since its inception in 2016 has reportedly been entrusted with 1.3 million documents.
The New York Times reports, however, that the Bitfury collaboration—in which the company was granted a full tax-exemption—may have been less an earnest attempt at trialling a novel technology than it was a venal money grab by ex-government officials who happened to sit on Bitfury’s board. One wonders how Cardano, too, got this potentially lucrative gig.