On Centralized Platforms and The Internet of Careers®
For the last several years, there has been intense interest around the future of work (FOW): what it will mean, what it will look like and how organizations can prepare for it. One of the most promising concepts to surface in these FOW considerations is that of verified self-sovereign career identity—the ability for everyone to take full control over their own career credentials (identity, education, employment, certifications, and other official documents) through a secure digital wallet.
Many platforms have emerged to support this new way of exchanging trusted career-related information, but the concept of portable, verifiable, comprehensive digital credentials requires an approach that is as ubiquitous as the internet itself.
MAKING CREDENTIALS, VERIFIABLE, IMMUTABLE, AND TRUSTED REQUIRES A BLOCKCHAIN-BASED LEDGER
Self-sovereign career identity framework enables individuals to hold their career records on digital wallets. This opens the question of how we ensure credentials can be trusted and tamper-proof. The answer lies in a blockchain-based ledger that provides a cryptographic proof of validity for each credential. When issuers of credentials issue credentials to the individual, they also issue the proof and anchor it to the blockchain. The individual can now present select credentials to a receiving organization. Once in possession of the credentials, the receiving organization can access the blockchain and retrieve the cryptographic proof assuring the credential is valid.
SHARED UTILITY LAYER IS KEY TO BROAD BASE ADOPTION
Today’s “portfolio career” style of work means that an individual will have a dozen or more employment and education experiences over their lifetime. All those organizations will need to be able to issue their constituents their credentials to support individuals’ curation of comprehensive career-related credentials.
Employers utilize many different HCM technology vendors; and the education providers use many different types of Student Information Systems and Learning Management Systems. Those technology vendors will be required to enable their user organizations to seamlessly issue credentials to their constituents and validate student, candidate, and employee records.
This need for wide-spread ecosystem development and adoption is a fundamental challenge facing any self-sovereign identity project, and no single technology vendor, regardless of size, can address this challenge alone. The necessary adoption flywheel fails to kick in across the needed ecosystem of credential issuers, credential verifiers and individuals, and the platform ultimately serves only a limited segment of the market. Such siloed ecosystems with limited value to its constituents are already visible today across the HCM and Education technology marketplaces.
As discussed in one of our previous posts, interoperability across siloed, vendor-driven, platforms will be extremely hard to achieve due to compliance and business process alignment reasons. This challenge requires a shared utility layer that unifies the infrastructure underlying the global labor market. The question is, then, what shape and form should this shared utility layer take?
VENDORS ARE RELUCTANT TO BUILD ON CENTRALIZED PROPRIETARY PLATFORMS
There are decades of evidence that centralized/proprietary platforms follow a predictable life cycle. When they start out, proprietary solutions do everything they can to recruit users and third-party partners like developers, businesses, and media organizations, to make their services more valuable and grow engagement on their platform.
As these platforms mature and see increased adoption, their power over users and third-party partners steadily grows.
When these proprietary platforms achieve a level of maturity, one where even industry late majority and laggards are joining the ecosystem, their relationships with the original partners often change. Cooperative partners become competitive rivals. Friction in the form of higher costs or access restrictions comes into play. Overall the rules of engagement change. For the participants, this transition from cooperation to competition can feel like a bait-and-switch.
A common complaint we see from third parties about platform businesses is they see what succeeds on their platforms and then enter the most profitable areas themselves, often decimating third parties in the process. Using proprietary platforms limit competition. There is a conflict of interest that undermines competition.
At any given time, centralized platforms can change the rules, increase fees, and restrict their third-party complements’ steps. And they do. Amazon crushes small companies by copying the goods they sell on the Amazon Marketplace and then selling its own branded version. Google allegedly snuffed out a competing small search engine by demoting its content on its search algorithm, and it has favored its own restaurant ratings over those of Yelp. Other examples include Facebook vs. Zynga, and Twitter vs. its third–party clients and Facebook’s decision to block Vine’s friend-finding feature after the Twitter acquisition. A more recent example of this type of behavior can be seen in the legal actions against Facebook taken by the Federal Trade Commission, which alleged that “Facebook has engaged in a systematic strategy—including its 2012 acquisition of up-and-coming rival Instagram, its 2014 acquisition of the mobile messaging app WhatsApp, and the imposition of anticompetitive conditions on software developers—to eliminate threats to its monopoly. This course of conduct [is claimed to] harm competition, leave consumers with less choices, and deprive advertisers of the benefits of competition, all constituents of its platform.” Forty-seven other state and regional attorneys general have joined this suit. The lawsuit marks the second major regulatory effort from the US government to rein in Big Tech, following the Department of Justice’s lawsuit against Google in October of this year for alleged illegal monopolization of the search and online ad markets. Understanding these risks, most vendors will not join any ecosystem that is centralized and controlled by a single entity.
The only way to avoid this predictable scenario is to move to a vendor–neutral, open architecture network, governed by its members, for the benefit of its constituency. That’s why we say that the future belongs to distributed, open, collaborative networks.
It’s a future that’s not just better. Not just possible—it’s factual. And it’s here.
THE VELOCITY NETWORK BELONGS TO NO ONE AND IS RUN BY ITS MEMBERS
Velocity Network’s vendor neutral infrastructure is distributed and run by members of the network, with no single–entity having a finger on the power switch, and no single point of control or failure. Select members serve as network stewards, trusted to run a copy of the distributed ledger, that is shared, replicated, and synchronized among the members of the distributed network (nodes). The nodes communicate with each other to gain consensus on the contents of the ledger and do not require a central authority to coordinate and validate transactions. Consensus algorithms ensure that the shared ledgers are exact copies and lower the risk of fraudulent transactions. The decentralized peer-to-peer network prevents any single participant or group of participants from controlling the underlying infrastructure or undermining the entire system. Participants in the network are all equal, adhering to the same protocols. The network belongs to no one and is run by its members.
The tech stack underlying the Velocity Network is developed under an open–source framework and will be licensed to be freely used, modified, and shared by the Foundation, its members and other network participants.
Most importantly, Velocity is governed by the non-for-profit Velocity Network Foundation. Every year, Velocity Network members elect the Foundation’s Board of Directors. The board sets policies and provides oversight. Board members have the obligation to represent the interests of all the different constituents of the Velocity Network, govern the use of the network, and continuously build the rulebook, a common framework that ensures operational consistency and legal clarity for every transaction.
THE FUTURE IS HERE
The Velocity Network is stepping up, putting people back in control. The right to work, to a free choice of employment, is a basic human right. We envision a world in which every person has access to personalized career and development opportunities, at the time it matters. To get there, a breadth of individual career data and its free flow are key to personalized guidance and better opportunities.
For such infrastructure to be truly universal, trusted, and ubiquitous, and for it to break silos and interoperability challenges, we must not repeat the same mistakes that led to the reality we see today on the internet. The Internet of Careers® must be a distributed, cooperative, vendor-neutral, open architecture play.