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Illinois Taskforce Advocates Government Blockchain Infrastructure




A group sanctioned by lawmakers in Illinois has released a report on its findings regarding government application of blockchain technology.

Published on January 31, 2018, an anticipated "Illinois Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Task Force Final Report to the General Assembly" extolls the virtues of blockchain systems for governments, while acknowledging the challenges ahead.

In a groundbreaking move among US states, the document itself was "the first government report in Illinois to be permanently certified in a public blockchain," a gesture that its authors hope demonstrates a "desire to see government begin to use this technology."

The taskforce was given the role of assessing areas of research for blockchain technology. It identified opportunities and risks; numerous different blockchain platforms; applicable use cases pursued by other states and nations; and how laws can be modified to support digital recordkeeping, public key and private keys, and digital signatures.

The team also provided recommendations to lawmakers based on their analysis:

"To broadly summarize our findings, this Task Force believes that blockchain technology and its built-in encryption can facilitate highly-secure methods for interacting with government and keeping paperless records, increasing data accuracy and providing better cybersecurity protections for Illinois residents. Though the technology still needs refinement, government has an opportunity to help shape and adopt innovative solutions."

The authors provided broad examinations of blockchain technology, complete with explanations on executable distributed code contracts (also known as smart contracts), soft and hard forks, how transactions are reconciled, transparency and immutability, as well as system security.

It was assessed that there is a necessity to strike a balance between governance, regulation, legal code, and the technical implementation of blockchain systems, as they can be applied to government-managed services like voting, taxation, and identification. It will require lawyers, mathematicians, business executives, and computer scientists to collaborate on methods the government might use to deliver such systems to the public.

Public-sector use cases for blockchain technology were also found, including disaster recovery, student loans, and agricultural price support. The taskforce said that blockchain technology could streamline the management of disparate facilities by digitizing records, allowing for interagency access to public-sector information.

As opposed to approaching from a basis of affirming the legality of use cases, the taskforce recommends lawmakers engage in building a "hyperconnected government with blockchains," to better enhance the role government plays in maintaining trusted data sets on individuals, organizations, assets, and activities. A number of legislative suggestions are proposed to lawmakers to help better poise the government to make the most of electronic record keeping, as applied to blockchain systems.

The taskforce made note that the state hasn't been sitting on the sidelines in the midst of ongoing ecosystem development; the Illinois Blockchain Initiative is an active participant in the ecosystem, having joined consortiums such as the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, Chamber of Digital Commerce, R3, Hyperledger and the Chicago Blockchain Center.

If Illinois steps forward and begins to integrate blockchain-based systems of governance for public sector entities, it may generate a standard which other states will in turn adopt.

Jeremy Nation

Jeremy Nation is a writer living in Los Angeles with interests in technology, human rights, and cuisine.

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