Illinois Doubles Down on Blockchain Promises

The state announced its commitment to growing blockchain business and implementing the technology wherever possible.

by / November 30, 2016

Just over a week after Government Technology reported that Illinois established a multiagency working group to investigate the full potential of blockchain technology within the state, state officials announced strategic initiatives meant to bolster the industry surrounding the technology and deploy it wherever they could.

During the Chicago Blockchain Conference Nov. 30, Department of Financial and Professional Regulation Secretary Bryan Schneider announced the Illinois Blockchain Initiative, which he said is aimed at not only better understanding the true potential of blockchain, but also solidifying the state as an innovation center for industry.

“The purpose in pulling this initiative together and giving it a name was threefold. We would like to educate ourselves on the technology as well as its societal, economic and legal implications…,” Schneider said. “We think it’s important to learn about this technology before we start figuring out how to regulate it.”

The coalition of state partners includes the likes of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Department of Insurance, Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, Department of Innovation and Technology, and the Cooks County Recorder of Deeds.

In line with the multiagency effort, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity named Assistant Deputy Director of Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Technology Jennifer O’Rourke as the department's business liaison.

In addition to kicking off the larger blockchain initiative, the department head also requested public comment on a proposed state guidance document for the tools. The so-called Digital Currency Regulatory Guidance would act as a clarifying document to the state’s Transmitters of Money Act.

Schneider said he hopes Illinois will become a valuable resource in the national space, adding that officials are looking closely at the examples put forward by states like Kansas, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. He also said he would like to see as uniform regulation as possible.

“While we are all sovereign states, we have an obligation to try to be as uniform as possible to the greatest extent possible," he said. "We kept that in mind as we developed this guidance."

Officials also discussed how blockchain would be used by the Cook County Recorder of Deeds office. Schneider said the move makes it the first county land office in the country to deploy the technology to monitor land titles.

“This is, in my view, a much better way to prevent fraud because there are some bad actors out there, doing some things that affect your lives," said Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough, "and the bad thing is you don’t even know it."

Despite state legislation to tighten the grip on fraudulent title activity, Yarbrough said the unalterable technology poses a greater opportunity for the department.

When asked how pervasive the technology it is likely to become in the public sector, Cook County’s Deputy Recorder of Deeds John Mirkovic said he fully expects the technology to be the “new normal” in both state and county government within the next decade.

Eyragon Eidam Web Editor

Eyragon Eidam is the Web editor for Government Technology magazine, after previously serving as  assistant news editor and covering such topics as legislation, social media and public safety. He can be reached at eeidam@erepublic.com.