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Ohio lawmakers show interest in blockchain

August 23, 2018

Ohio lawmakers show interest in blockchain

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio legislative leaders want the state to be a pioneer in emerging blockchain technology but haven’t decided how it should be incorporated into government functions. 

House Speaker Ryan Smith, a Bidwell Republican, rallied lawmakers, business owners and academics to attend a press conference Thursday to pledge Ohio’s openness to attracting computer engineers and companies that want to use blockchain.  

Blockchain is a series of decentralized computer networks, where data is divided and publicly stored among several public computers instead of one database or web server. Records, currency and other pieces of information stored through blockchain are verified by several sources and can’t be erased or altered. It’s most commonly known as the engine behind digital currency Bitcoin.

Gov. John Kasich signed a bill last month making it clear that blockchain transactions are allowed in Ohio. Other states including Illinois and West Virginia are looking at how to use it for government operations such as storing records or voting in elections.

Smith said blockchain initially could be used to store birth certificates, marriage licenses or other vital statistics in a more secure manner. But Smith said he and others aren’t ready to propose legislation to move government records to a blockchain model. 

Smith said now is the time to work with universities so students graduate with skills to work with blockchain and with private businesses that want to use the technology. 

“Because this is so new and this is just beginning to take shape, we can position Ohio out front,” Smith said. 

Smith mentioned possibly forming a committee to study the issue, and meanwhile, he plans to continue discussions with Ohio colleges and businesses eager to try it. Cleveland businessman Bernie Moreno, who is spearheading an effort to make Cleveland a blockchain hub, was among those present at Thursday’s press conference.

Jim Korcykoski, Nationwide Insurance’s chief technology information security officer, said blockchain has the potential to be “the internet of the future.” 

“The internet fundamentally changed how we all interact with individuals, interact with businesses and interact with government,” Korcykoski said. “Blockchain has a way to bring transparency, efficiency and open up new innovative business models very similar to how the internet did.”

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