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Florida Legislature Seeks Answers to Blockchain's Potential

New legislation would create a working group to assess the technology's potential applications and possibly recommend policies and state investments to help make Florida a leader in blockchain technology.

Florida may soon join the growing ranks of state governments that are assessing the potential benefits of blockchain technologies.

A newly introduced Senate bill would create a working group to study the technology, with an eye toward understanding how it might "improve processes, increase efficiency, and promote transparency in government" and businesses, according to the text.

The group, which would be established in the state’s Department of Management Services, would ultimately compile a report and share their findings with the Governor's office and the state Legislature.  

The bill was introduced earlier this month by David Santiago, a state representative and chair of the Gaming Control Subcommittee. It has since been referred to a number of committees for further review. A companion bill has also been introduced.  

If passed, Florida would join a growing list of states — including New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Wyoming — that have formed task forces to study the potential benefits of blockchain.

A relatively new phenomenon, blockchain broke onto the national scene in 2008 when a man or group of people named Satoshi Nakamoto wrote a white paper for a cryptocurrency deployed through blockchain technology that came to be known as bitcoin. Blockchain utilizes a system of cryptography to verify and store records of digital transactions, essentially ensuring trust in exchange without the use of third-party enforcement. 

As the new Florida bill notes, blockchain has ballooned in market value ever since its inception, going from millions to billions of dollars in just a few short years.    

Consequently, the technology has become an intense area of interest for state and federal officials, who see potential in its ability to modernize methods of record keeping, cost savings, and security. President Trump even recently ordered a Pentagon study of its potential benefits for U.S. cybersecurity operations.

Still, some question remains as to blockchain’s actual utility. Is it a truly revolutionary technology, or is it simply overhyped and not really that practical? In states where tasks forces have already set about to study the technology, outcomes from those studies have tended to be hopeful.

In Illinois, for instance, where officials have made a comprehensive effort to study blockchain, the state task force's final report predicted it could help create "more responsive, trusted and integrated public services." In Florida, the benefits of the adoption of blockchain technology could be similarly diverse.

The language in the Florida bill emphasizes the tech’s promise of increased efficiency, calling it a way to “facilitate more efficient government service delivery models and economies of scale, including facilitating safe paperless transactions and recordkeeping.”

It also has the power to centralize operations, reducing reliance on "disparate government computer systems," while also bolstering system security against potential cyberattacks, according to the bill. 

The legislation asks that the working group not merely explore potential benefits of the technology, but develop a "master plan" for how the blockchain industry could be fostered and grown throughout the state. The goal, according to the bill, should be for the group to "recommend policies and state investments to help make this state a leader in blockchain technology."

Lucas Ropek is a former staff writer for Government Technology.