Sajida Zouarhi, a PhD student takes us inside the universe of blockchain

For this PhD student at Orange Labs Meylan, blockchain technology can contribute to strengthen digital trust by restoring the user to the forefront and handing him back control of his personal data.

I feel that blockchain offers us a second chance, a kind of rebirth of the Internet as it should have been.

Every year, Orange Labs recruits around forty PhD students specialised in various fields, integrated in a research team and supervised by the company and a research laboratory. In 2014, Sajida Zouarhi was one of these students, thanks to a thesis on the “guarantee of quality of service for critical data transmission”. A subject which gave her the opportunity to monitor the possible applications of blockchain in the health sector.

Popularised by Bitcoin, blockchain is a transparent, secure and decentralised data storage and transmission technology. It works like a digital register of exchanges, un-modifiable and checkable by all users.

“I quickly detected the interest of blockchain technology and became passionate about this subject, said Sajida Zouarhi. The Internet is a revolution that reached everyone in a relatively short time, and I think that blockchain has the potential to have the same impact on people’s lives.”

According to the researcher, blockchain could contribute to strengthen digital trust by handing back control of their data to the users. “This is a technical innovation with a strong human dimension.”

At the Orange Research Salon in 2016, she presented with her team a consent management solution, enabling patients to manage in a simple way authorisations given to third parties (here, health professionals) to access private information from objects connected in a selective and differentiated way.

“Increasingly, we realise that it is difficult to keep control over our data. For Orange, the subject of digital trust is important and this is why our research teams explore different technologies which could ensure better governance for the users.”

(Sub-head) In collaborative mode

This is why Sajida Zouarhi is very involved in the French community forming around blockchain. Co-founder of the Chaintech association, she started the Magmateek community with a “blockchain meetup” in Grenoble. The community gathers over 260 members around various subjects (impacts and challenges of blockchain, future projects, etc…).

In Paris, she contributes to the organisation of Blockchain 1.0, the first educational blockchain festival, held at the 42 School in June 2016. She also participates to various collaborative blockchain projects, such as KIDNER, an open source platform that enables to match potential kidney transplant donors and receivers.

Convinced that blockchain can have a positive social impact, she is working hard to popularise and promote the technology to the general public. For her, this is an integral part of a researcher’s work, based on communication and sharing: “Researchers should not remain locked up in their offices, they should take the time to explain their work to people, help them grasp concepts and technologies that may initially appear complex.”

At Orange, she is actually encouraged to “explore, leave the lab”. The group she created on the internal social network (Plazza) on the advice of her PhD supervisor generates a high membership with over 230 subscribers, and remotely gathers every month several dozen people who think together about the opportunities offered by blockchain. “What is beautiful with the whole blockchain topic is that is enables to bring together people who would have otherwise never spoken to each other. They can educate themselves together on this new paradigm and see how blockchain can impact their profession.”


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