EBSI4RO – Connecting Romania through Blockchain

The “EBSI4RO: Connecting Romania through Blockchain” project was launched in April 2021. The central scope is to create an extendable and sustainable ecosystem to facilitate and accelerate the awareness, knowledge, and adoption of the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI) by the Romanian citizens, businesses, institutions, and administration. It also seeks to support the participation and contribution of Romanian stakeholders to the EBSI, in particular as regards the Diplomas use case.

Cosmin Cioranu, Project Manager of the EBSI4RO project and Head of the IT Department at the Executive Agency for Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation Funding (UEFISCDI) in Romania, explains the objectives of the project and the expected impact.

– Can you introduce yourself?

“I am one of the project managers of EBSI4RO. I would describe myself as technology curious leaning towards software solving societal issues which has brought me developing unusual projects requiring extensive knowledge from network architectures and procedures, low level code optimizations to distributed system principles. I studied, mainly, Software Development and Database Design using various programming languages starting with C/C++ and java, continuing with scripting languages, both having various backends like MySQL and MariaDB. I have 15+ years of professional experience and, I have contributed in designing and developing the UEFISCDI’s R&D Proposal and Reviewing Platform, the National Student Enrollment Registry and other small but large-impact projects. For several years now, I have been involved in some Open-Source projects, like DBMail, GeoServer, etc., tinkering with embedded devices coding or networking services and security issues.”

– Can you describe the scope of the EBSI4RO project?

“The central scope of the project is to create an extendable and sustainable ecosystem to facilitate and accelerate the awareness, knowledge and adoption of EBSI by Romanian citizens, businesses, institutions and administration. The project has supported the participation and contribution of Romanian stakeholders to the EBSI, particularly regarding the Diplomas use case. The activities envisage EBSI cross-border use cases by deploying the Diplomas use-case, developing applications and services for digital credentials and micro-credentials, integrated with the (Single) National Student Enrolment Registry, implemented and managed by UEFISCDI. Five mini-MOOCs related to Blockchain and EBSI were created on the Unicampus.ro platform and are currently delivered to various target groups, from public institutions and agencies, start-ups, companies, universities and schools. Also, another milestone we have touched is that the project pushed us to became a node operator, hosted on UEFISCDI’s Data Center, which further enhanced our commitment to the EBSI and towards its goals.”

– Who are the project partners?

“The project is coordinated by the Executive Agency for Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation Funding (UEFISCDI), in partnership with Politehnica University of Timisoara (UPT).

UEFISCDI is a public institution under the ultimate authority of the Ministry of Education, which, through the national and international experience of ongoing projects and financing activities, has accumulated knowledge for implementation of e-administration systems, in order to use it nationally among public administration personnel. UEFISCDI has developed many open-source modules for improving communication with public administration institutions, the business sector and last but not least, researchers and citizens. An important aspect is related to UEFISCDI’s connection with universities, given the fact that UEFISCDI is the financing agency in Romania and, at the same time, the developer of the National Students Enrolment platform (RMU), which was first launched in 2010 and updated constantly.

UPT is the first higher education institution in West Romania in the Banat region. For 100 years, it has been an outstanding and modern university with a well-deserved reputation for excellence. UPT has 10 faculties with more than 15,000 full-time students at bachelor, master and Ph.D. level and over 130,000 graduates. UPT developed a strong tradition of cooperation with industry and civil society. It is strongly involved in research and it is currently ranked internationally as the best technical university in Romania. Research is based on European and national funding, but also on specific funding from the main companies. Besides participation in the EBSI4RO projects, UPT is also a member of the bloxberg Association for the Advancement of Science and Blockchain.

The EBSI4RO Project Manager for the Politehnica University of Timisoara is Radu Vasiu, a Professor and Ph.D. supervisor at the Faculty of Electronics, Telecommunications and Information Technologies. He is the Director of the Multimedia Research Centre. Professor Vasiu is active in international projects, acting as a manager to more than 20 EC projects. He authored 12 books and more than 150 papers. Currently, Prof. Vasiu acts as President of the International Association for e- Science (IAFeS), which promotes the use of ICT in science and technology at the international level. He is also a senior member of the IEEE Computer Society and IEEE Communications Society.”

– Why did you choose this case study?

“Each year, hundreds of thousands of European citizens go abroad to another European country to continue their studies. To simplify the process behind issuing and verifying the verifiable credentials’ credibility, the teams of three national projects from Romania, Greece, and France, have collaborated on a cross-border scenario in which a Romanian student, after obtaining the Bachelor’s degree from the Politehnica University of Timisoara applies for a Master’s Programme at the University of Athens and then for a Ph.D. degree at the University of Lille in France.

The challenges, solutions, and conclusions of the case study could be useful for educational ministries, managers, and organizations, wanting to issue Verifiable Credentials on EBSI, in which case the administrative processes are simplified, trust is enhanced and efficiency is increased.”

– What impact would you like your project to have?

“Our goal is to prepare the necessary specifications to simplify the administrative processes to accelerate the creation of cross borders services for public administration and their ecosystems to verify educational credentials. We envisage that as a result of the MOOC trainings that we developed to increase the awareness of EBSI and thus build a solid blockchain network by attracting many actors in the EBSI network in Romania.”