The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) is doubling down on blockchain this year.
NYCEDC, a sponsor of the inaugural Blockchain Week New York City, announced on May 14 that it will launch the NYC Blockchain Resource Center, as well as a public blockchain competition, later this year, in hopes of stimulating interest, awareness and innovation in the digital ledger technology — as well as motivating innovators to develop solutions that could improve public-sector services.
The overarching goal is to position New York City as an accessible center for innovation in blockchain, which is a paradigm for digital recording of transactions or events through a shared but incorruptible electronic ledger.
“There’s no city in the world that’s better positioned to lead the way in blockchain. The city is putting a big focus into blockchain to find out how we can grow the industry and make sure it’s creating great opportunities for New Yorkers,” NYCEDC President and CEO James Patchett said in a statement.
Blockchain Week New York City, which is May 11-17, is co-sponsored by CoinDesk, a blockchain news outlet. Its CEO, Kevin Worth, has said in the past that the industry lacks staff due to its steep growth trajectory.
New York City joins states already scrutinizing the technology, including Delaware, which is piloting a blockchain-based corporate registry; Illinois, which has conducted six pilots around everything from property sales to birth records; and New Jersey, which has evaluated enterprise-level use cases around residents interacting with state-managed databases, in hopes of increasing efficiency and security.
In the city’s case, its planned Blockchain Resource Center is aimed at creating a physical place where members of the public can be educated on the technology and entrepreneurs can connect to support services, mentorships, get advice and network with a peer community on how to launch and scale new endeavors, NYCEDC said.
The regulatory environment around blockchain is also up for discussion, and NYCEDC leaders hope the center will be an arena to “convene all the parties” to “have an honest conversation about how (to) create a regulatory environment in New York City that is focused on consumer protections but also focused on spurring innovation,” Ryan Birchmeier, an NYCEDC spokesman, told Government Technology.
He pointed out that blockchain job postings rose more than 800 percent from 2015 to 2017 and the sector is believed to have the potential to create thousands of good jobs.
NYCEDC is now talking to potential partners in the venture and reviewing their proposals, with an eye for locations in close proximity to financial, media and real estate areas in the city.
The agency will also use the annual NYC BigApps competition to explore blockchain this year. The competition will begin in late 2018. The city has issued an RFP seeking organizations to run this year’s contest.
“This year, NYCEDC seeks to leverage the NYC BigApps Competition to foster the development of innovative blockchain applications, or use cases, that address challenges facing the public sector in New York City,” NYCEDC said in an online explainer that accompanied the RFP.
In the RFP, the agency said “competitive responses” will accomplish goals including educating government and public alike on blockchain; highlighting challenge areas with potential blockchain solutions, generate new businesses and jobs in blockchain, leverage public and private data to “unlock innovation” and make government more transparent and attract new talent to the city, connecting it to local venture capital and technology communities. The submission deadline is June 27.
New York City Council member Peter Koo, chairman of its committee on technology, called the center and the competition “great opportunities” to explore the technology’s potential economic impact and job opportunities.
Birchmeier pointed out BigApps' signature accomplishment has been to convene civic technologists, residents, marketers and salespeople around generating ideas to resolve problems — an outcome NYCEDC hopes will happen again this year.
“I think that is going to be one of the biggest outcomes, that we’re looking forward the ability to engage people, and as many different kinds of people from as many different backgrounds as possible to solve blockchain issues,” Birchmeier said.
Maja Vujinovic, CEO of OGroup, which assists companies in creating frameworks for blockchain implementation, said blockchain, digital ledger and similar emerging technologies “are driving transparency in our society and our industries,” in a statement.
“We have to prepare current businesses for these inevitable changes, and the new generation of leaders that will drive a more abundant and inclusive economy,” Vujinovic said.
Theo Douglas is a staff writer for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes covering municipal, county and state governments, business and breaking news. He has a Bachelor's degree in Newspaper Journalism and a Master's in History, both from California State University, Long Beach.