In speeches delivered Tuesday at Data Transparency 2017, a conference organized by the Data Foundation, multiple Trump administration officials remarked on the White House’s interest in blockchain technology as a means to improve the lives of US citizens and enhance government function.
Acting US Chief Information Officer Margie Graves announced that on September 8, the Office of the CIO and the US General Services Administration had jointly hosted a workshop that included “over 80 participants from industry, academia, and open government organizations.” The goal of the gathering was to “explore emerging technology,” including blockchain, “and open data for a more open government.” She added that some of the topics discussed there could find their way into the fourth iteration of the Open Government National Action Plan, originally launched in 2011, which she projected would be released in a matter of months. She listed “anonymized ledgers” and cybersecurity as features that make blockchain technology an appealing tool for the government to instrumentalize. Speaking broadly, she said of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB):
“We’re committed to that long-term vision of data transparency to transform the US government for the better, and we have strong support as you heard earlier today from Chris Liddell of the White House and also from Mick Mulvaney and OMB leadership.”
Addressing the crowd earlier that morning, assistant to the President for Strategic Initiatives Chris Liddell explained that “whether it’s blockchain, artificial intelligence, or perhaps a technology that hasn’t yet been envisaged, standardized data will help enable the government to stay current with technology’s latest trends over time.”
Liddell, who concurrently occupies the role of director of Strategic Initiatives at the White House, told attendees that he was speaking that day in his capacity as a member of the White House Office of American Innovation (OAI), a body established by President Donald Trump and led by Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner. It is the OAI’s position, he said, that “the government should leverage the latest technology to make citizens’ experience as good as those offered by the private sector.”
These comments echo remarks that Mark Calabria, chief economist for Vice President Mike Pence, delivered in an address at the DC Blockchain Summit this past March. Blockchain technology, he asserted, could help realize one of seven principles that President Trump laid out in February, namely to “create a financial system that quote ‘empowers Americans to make independent financial decisions and informed choices in the marketplace.’” More generally, he said of the Trump White House:
“We are an administration that wants to foster a dynamic, growing economy. I think we also recognize that we’re not necessarily the innovators; what we can really do is try to get out of the way and figure out where government stops you from being an innovator, and that’s gonna be our big focus.”