Illinois has released its first official government report about blockchain, which grew from an initiative aimed at exploring how the technology could help spur economic development in the state.
It was called the Illinois Blockchain Initiative (IBI), and it was officially announced in November 2016, with a stated mission of exploring the potential of the new technology in regards to economic development. This resulted in the creation of the Illinois Blockchain Task Force, a group of appointed members from the state’s general assembly, as well as agency representatives and public entities involved with early efforts. The group met throughout the past four months to discuss and study blockchain, and the new report is a result of those efforts.
Illinois announced its release in a statement Wednesday, Jan. 31, noting that the final blockchain report is hosted on the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), which is itself a blockchain and distributed ledger-related peer-to-peer file storage system. For those who don’t know or who are as of yet unfamiliar, blockchain-based systems can improve record keeping and service delivery. Blockchain is essentially a continuously-growing list of records secured with cryptography, a type of database replicated over a peer-to-peer network that is said to be immune to compromise.
In a letter enclosed with the report, the task force broadly summarized its findings, writing: “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.”
Some of the promises around blockchain within the report include: creating a secure platform that enables immutable and irrevocable digital identities; having the ability to provide universal access to financial services and government benefits; and fueling greater economic participation that will spur a stronger economy.
The existence of this report is encouraging, to be sure, and while there is not exactly a clear and specific roadmap to how maximizing the potential of blockchain in Illinois will be accomplished, the report does stand as an official stated interest on the part of Illinois to get there soon. The state also noted the “continued development of blockchain pilot projects is expected to further the exploration of distributed ledger technology in Illinois.”
As of last fall, the state had identified six pilot uses for blockchain, some of which were in development. Examples include a health provider network in partnership with the state Department of Financial and Professional Regulations and a digital identity project with the Department of Public Health.