Education In Focus Magazine

InAcademia: proven and open for business

Words: Laura Durnford, GÉANT

Launching a new service just as a global pandemic is emerging is an ‘interesting’ challenge. But for InAcademia, which was launched as a production service in early February 2020, it did not prove too much of an obstacle. As the world suddenly adapted to life online, InAcademia began its mission to help students and staff from participating research and education institutions to access or buy online services and products, while protecting their privacy. By validating their academic affiliation in real time, InAcademia builds on eduGAIN to confirm eligibility for relevant services and discounts.

For merchants, InAcademia provides a quick, easy, reliable and secure way to verify that users are affiliated with a research and education institution. Having worked with a small number of service providers to prove the concept during the earlier pilot phase, the InAcademia team set its sights on attracting a major commercial service provider to use the technology ‘for real’. By April, they had succeeded in signing up one of the world’s largest identity verification aggregator companies, which gives access to a range of well-known online brands and services. After completing tests and pilots, real-world validations could begin. By the autumn, user validations were taking place in four countries. When the first invoice was generated, it was a milestone moment – though it’s early days in the life of the service, any future surplus will be ploughed back into GÉANT community activities.

In the Netherlands, the national library, Koninklijke Bibliotheek (KB) uses InAcademia to give access to more than 400,000 scholarly e-books, databases about history, politics, arts and more, and a selection of recent magazines and newspapers from around the world, with only lightweight validation requirements. “We love the service,” says Johanneke van Dorp. “Implementation was simple and quick. From now on our student customers can prove they are a student just by authenticating like they are used to doing in their own institution.”

The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Spain were the first to adopt the service. As well as attracting more countries to adopt it, the InAcademia team is seeking federations and NRENs to collaborate on national promotion, and on getting more commercial and community service providers to sign up. An online workshop on 11 February 2021 provided a push in that direction. A decision by the French NREN, RENATER, to refer all commercial service providers to InAcademia from 1 March 2021 is also expected to have a positive impact – a development that will be keenly watched as year 2 of the service unfolds.

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