In a database, you have entities (which have attributes), and relationships between those entities. Managing them is key to preventing chaos from engulfing your database, which is where the concept of keys comes in. These unique identifiers enable you to pick specific rows in an entity set, as well as define their relationships to rows in other entity sets, allowing your database to handle complex computations.

Let’s explore keys in DBMS (database management systems) in more detail, before digging into everything you need to know about the most important keys – primary keys.

Understanding Keys in DBMS

Keys in DBMS are attributes that you use to identify specific rows inside a table, in addition to finding the relation between two tables. For example, let’s say you have a table for students, with that table recording each student’s “ID Number,” “Name,” “Address,” and “Teacher” as attributes. If you want to identify a specific student in the table, you’ll need to use one of these attributes as a key that allows you to pull the student’s record from your database. In this case “ID Number” is likely the best choice because it’s a unique attribute that only applies to a single student.

Types of Keys in DBMS

Beyond the basics of serving as unique identifiers for rows in a database, keys in DBMS can take several forms:

  • Primary Keys – An attribute that is present in the table for all of the records it contains, with each instance of that attribute being unique to the record. The previously-mentioned “ID Number” for students is a great example, as no student can have the same number as another student.
  • Foreign Key – Foreign keys allow you to define and establish relationships between a pair of tables. If Table A needs to refer to the primary key in Table B, you’ll use a foreign key in Table A so you have values in that table to match those in Table B.
  • Unique Key – These are very similar to primary keys in that both contain unique identifiers for the records in a table. The only difference is that a unique key can contain a null value, whereas a primary key can’t.
  • Candidate Key – Though you may have picked a unique attribute to serve as your primary key, there may be other candidates within a table. Coming back to the student example, you may record the phone numbers and email addresses of your students, which can be as unique as the student ID assigned to the individual. These candidate keys are also unique identifiers, allowing them to be used in tandem with a primary key to identify a specific row in a table.
  • Composite Key – If you have attributes that wouldn’t be unique when taken alone, but can be combined to form a unique identifier for a record, you have a composite key.
  • Super Key – This term refers to the collection of attributes that uniquely identify a record, meaning it’s a combination of candidate keys. Just like an employer sifting through job candidates to find the perfect person, you’ll sift through your super key set to choose the ideal primary key amongst your candidate keys.

So, why are keys in DBMS so important?

Keys ensure you maintain data integrity across all of the tables that make up your database. Without them, the relationships between each table become messy hodgepodges, creating the potential for duplicate records and errors that deliver inaccurate reports from the database. Having unique identifiers (in the form of keys) allows you to be certain that any record you pull, and the relationships that apply to that record, are accurate and unrepeated.

Primary Key Essentials

As mentioned, any unique attribute in a table can serve as a primary key, though this doesn’t mean that every unique attribute is a great choice. The following characteristics help you to define the perfect primary key.


If your primary key is repeatable across records, it can’t serve as a unique identifier for a single record. For example, our student table may have multiple people named “John,” so you can’t use the “Name” attribute to find a specific student. You need something unique to that student, such as the previously mentioned ID number.

Non-Null Values

Primary keys must always contain a value, else you risk losing records in a table because you have no way of calling upon them. This need for non-null values can be used to eliminate some candidates from primary key content. For instance, it’s feasible (though unlikely) that a student won’t have an email address, creating the potential for null values that mean the email address attribute can’t be a primary key.


A primary key that can change over time is a key that can cause confusion. Immutability is the term used for any attribute that’s unchanging to the point where it’s an evergreen attribute that you can use to identify a specific record forever.


Ideally, one table should have one attribute that serves as its primary key, which is where the term “minimal” comes in. It’s possible for a table to have a composite or super key set, though both create the possibility of confusion and data integrity issues.

The Importance of a Primary Key in DBMS

We can distill the reason why having a primary key in DBMS for each of your tables is important into the following reasons:

  • You can use a primary key to identify each unique record in a table, meaning no multi-result returns to your database searches.
  • Having a primary key means a record can’t be repeated in the table.
  • Primary keys make data retrieval more efficient because you can use a single attribute for searches rather than multiple.

Functions of Primary Keys

Primary keys in DBMS serve several functions, each of which is critical to your DBMS.

Data Identification

Imagine walking into a crowded room and shouting out a name. The odds are that several people (all of whom have the same name) will turn their heads to look at you. That’s basically what you’re doing if you try to pull records from a table without using a primary key.

A primary key in DBMS serves as a unique identifier that you can use to pull specific records. Coming back to the student example mentioned earlier, a “Student ID” is only applicable to a single student, making it a unique identifier you can use to find that student in your database.

Ensure Data Integrity

Primary keys protect data integrity in two ways.

First, they prevent duplicate records from building up inside a single table, ensuring you don’t get multiple instances of the same record. Second, they ensure referential integrity, which is the term used to describe what happens when one table in your database needs to refer to the records stored in another table.

For example, let’s say you have tables for “Students” and “Teachers” in your database. The primary keys assigned to your students and teachers allow you to pull individual records as needed from each table. But every “Teacher” has multiple “Students” in their class. So, your primary key from the “Students” table is used as a foreign key in the “Teachers” table, allowing you to denote the one-to-many relationship between a teacher and their class of students. That foreign key also ensures referential integrity because it contains the unique identifiers for students, which you can look up in your “Students” table.

Data Retrieval

If you need to pull a specific record from a table, you can’t rely on attributes that can repeat across several records in that table. Again, the “Name” example highlights the problem here, as several people could have the same name. You need a unique identifier for each record so you can retrieve a single record from a huge set without having to pore through hundreds (or even thousands) of records.

Best Practices for Primary Key Selection

Now that you understand how primary keys in DBMS work, here are some best practices for selecting the right primary key for your table:

  • Choose Appropriate Attributes as Candidates – If the attribute isn’t unique to each record, or it can contain a null value (as is the case with email addresses and phone numbers), it’s not a good candidate for a primary key.
  • Avoid Using Sensitive Information – Using personal or sensitive information as a primary key creates a security risk because anybody who cracks your database could use that information for other purposes. Make your primary keys unique, and only applicable, to your database, which allows you to encrypt any sensitive information stored in your tables.
  • Consider Surrogate Keys – Some tables don’t have natural attributes that you can use as primary keys. In these cases, you can create a primary key out of thin air and assign it to each record. The “Student ID” referenced earlier is a great example, as students entering a school don’t come with their own ID numbers. Those numbers are given to the student (or simply used in the database that collects their data), making them surrogate keys.
  • Ensure Primary Key Stability – Any attribute that can change isn’t suitable for use as a primary key because it causes stability issues. Names, email addresses, phone numbers, and even bank account details are all things that can change, making them unsuitable. Evergreen and unchanging is the way to go with primary keys.

Choose the Right Keys for Your Database

You need to understand the importance of a primary key in DBMS (or multiple primary keys when you have several tables) so you can define the relationships between tables and identify unique records inside your tables. Without primary keys, you’ll find it much harder to run reports because you won’t feel confident in the accuracy of the data returned. Each search may pull up duplicate or incorrect records because of a lack of unique identifiers.

Thankfully, many of the tables you create will have attributes that lend themselves well to primary key status. And even when that isn’t the case, you can use surrogate keys in DBMS to assign primary keys to your tables. Experiment with your databases, testing different potential primary keys to see what works best for you.

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Il Sole 24 Ore: 100 thousand IT professionals missing
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
May 14, 2024 6 min read

Written on April 24th 2024

Source here: Il Sole 24 Ore (full article in Italian)

Open Institute of Technology: 100 thousand IT professionals missing

Eurostat data processed and disseminated by OPIT. Stem disciplines: the share of graduates in Italy between the ages of 20 and 29 is 18.3%, compared to the European 21.9%

Today, only 29% of young Italians between 25 and 34 have a degree. Not only that: compared to other European countries, the comparison is unequal given that the average in the Old Continent is 46%, bringing Italy to the penultimate place in this ranking, ahead only of Romania. The gap is evident even if the comparison is limited to STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) where the share of graduates in Italy between the ages of 20 and 29 is 18.3%, compared to the European 21.9%, with peaks of virtuosity which in the case of France that reaches 29.2%. Added to this is the continuing problem of the mismatch between job supply and demand, so much so that 62.8% of companies struggle to find professionals in the technological and IT fields.

The data

The Eurostat data was processed and disseminated by OPIT – Open Institute of Technology. an academic institution accredited at European level, active in the university level education market with online Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in the technological and digital fields. We are therefore witnessing a phenomenon with worrying implications on the future of the job market in Italy and on the potential loss of competitiveness of our companies at a global level, especially if inserted in a context in which the macroeconomic scenario in the coming years will undergo a profound discontinuity linked to the arrival of “exponential” technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and robotics, but also to the growing threats related to cybersecurity.

Requirements and updates

According to European House Ambrosetti, over 2,000,000 professionals will have to update their skills in the Digital and IT area by 2026, also to take advantage of the current 100,000 vacant IT positions, as estimated by Frank Recruitment Group. But not only that: the Italian context, which is unfavorable for providing the job market with graduates and skills, also has its roots in the chronic birth rate that characterizes our country: according to ISTAT data, in recent years the number of newborns has fallen by 28%, bringing Italy’s birth rate to 1.24, among the lowest in Europe, where the average is 1.46.

Profumo: “Structural deficiency”

“The chronic problem of the absence of IT professionals is structural and of a dual nature: on one hand the number of newborns – therefore, potential “professionals of the future” – is constantly decreasing; on the other hand, the percentage of young people who acquires degrees are firmly among the lowest in Europe”, declared Francesco Profumo, former Minister of Education and rector of OPIT – Open Institute of Technology. “The reasons are varied: from the cost of education (especially if undertaken off-site), to a university offering that is poorly aligned with changes in society, to a lack of awareness and orientation towards STEM subjects, which guarantee the highest employment rates. Change necessarily involves strong investments in the university system (and, in general, in the education system) at the level of the country, starting from the awareness that a functioning education system is the main driver of growth and development in the medium to long term. It is a debated and discussed topic on which, however, a clear and ambitious position is never taken.”

Stagnant context and educational offer

In this stagnant context, the educational offer that comes from online universities increasingly meets the needs of flexibility, quality and cost of recently graduated students, university students looking for specialization and workers interested in updating themselves with innovative skills. According to data from the Ministry of University and Research, enrollments in accredited online universities in Italy have grown by over 141 thousand units in ten years (since 2011), equal to 293.9%. Added to these are the academic institutions accredited at European level, such as OPIT, whose educational offering is overall capable of opening the doors to hundreds of thousands of students, with affordable costs and extremely innovative and updated degree paths.

Analyzing the figures

An analysis of Eurostat statistics relating to the year 2021 highlights that 27% of Europeans aged between 16 and 74 have attended an entirely digital course. The highest share is recorded in Ireland (46%), Finland and Sweden (45%) and the Netherlands (44%). The lowest in Romania (10%), Bulgaria (12%) and Croatia (18%). Italy is at 20%. “With OPIT” – adds Riccardo Ocleppo, founder and director – “we have created a new model of online academic institution, oriented towards new technologies, with innovative programs, a strong practical focus, and an international approach, with professors and students from 38 countries around the world, and teaching in English. We intend to train Italian students not only on current and updated skills, but to prepare them for an increasingly dynamic and global job market. Our young people must be able to face the challenges of the future like those who study at Stanford or Oxford: with solid skills, but also with relational and attitudinal skills that lead them to create global companies and startups or work in multinationals like their international colleagues. The increasing online teaching offer, if well structured and with quality, represents an incredible form of democratization of education, making it accessible at low costs and with methods that adapt to the flexibility needs of many working students.”

Point of reference

With two degrees already starting in September 2023 – a three-year degree (BSc) in Modern Computer Science and a specialization (MSc) in Applied Data Science & AI – and 4 starting in September 2024: a three-year degree (BSc) in Digital Business, and the specializations (MSc) in Enterprise Cybersecurity, Applied Digital Business and Responsible Artificial Intelligence (AI), OPIT is an academic institution of reference for those who intend to respond to the demands of a job market increasingly oriented towards the field of artificial intelligence. Added to this are a high-profile international teaching staff and an exclusively online educational offer focused on the technological and digital fields.

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Times of India: The 600,000 IT job shortage in India and how to solve it
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
OPIT - Open Institute of Technology
May 2, 2024 3 min read

Written on April 25th 2024

Source here: Times of India 

The job market has never been a straightforward path. Ask anyone who has ever looked for a job, certainly within the last decade, and they can tell you as much. But with the rapid development of AI and machine learning, concerns are growing for people about their career options, with a report from Randstad finding that 7 in 10 people in India are concerned about their job being eliminated by AI.

 Employers have their own share of concerns. According to The World Economic Forum, 97 million new AI-related jobs will be created by 2025 and the share of jobs requiring AI skills will increase by 58%. The IT industry in India is experiencing a tremendous surge in demand for skilled professionals on disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, cybersecurity and, according to Nasscom, this is leading to a shortage of 600,000 profiles.

 So how do we fill those gaps? Can we democratize access to top-tier higher education in technology?

These are the questions that Riccardo Ocleppo, the engineer who founded a hugely successful ed-tech platform connecting international students with global Universities, Docsity, asked himself for years. Until he took action and launched the Open Institute of Technology (OPIT), together with the Former Minister of Education of Italy, Prof. Francesco Profumo, to help people take control of their future careers.

OPIT offers BSc and MSc degrees in Computer Science, AI, Data Science, Cybersecurity, and Digital Business, attracting students from over 38 countries worldwide. Through innovative learning experiences and affordable tuition fees starting at €4,050 per year, OPIT empowers students to pursue their educational goals without the financial and personal burden of relocating.

The curriculum, delivered through a mix of live and pre-recorded lectures, equips students with the latest technology skills, as well as business and strategic acumen necessary for careers in their chosen fields. Moreover, OPIT’s EU-accredited degrees enable graduates to pursue employment opportunities in Europe, with recognition by WES facilitating transferability to the US and Canada.

OPIT’s commitment to student success extends beyond academics, with a full-fledged career services department led by Mike McCulloch. Remote students benefit from OPIT’s “digital campus,” fostering connections through vibrant discussion forums, online events, and networking opportunities with leading experts and professors.

Faculty at OPIT, hailing from prestigious institutions and industry giants like Amazon and Microsoft, bring a wealth of academic and practical experience to the table. With a hands-on, practical teaching approach, OPIT prepares students for the dynamic challenges of the modern job market.

In conclusion, OPIT stands as a beacon of hope for individuals seeking to future-proof their careers in technology. By democratizing access to high-quality education and fostering a global learning community, OPIT empowers students to seize control of their futures and thrive in the ever-evolving tech landscape.

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