U.S. explores blockchain for govt-issued credentials, patents

August 09, 2017 // By Rich Pell
The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), which helps manage and support the basic functioning of federal agencies, has launched a new blockchain information portal under its Emerging Citizen Technology initiative.

The agency sees potential in distributed ledger technologies like blockchain, saying "federal agencies are eager to better evaluate and adopt [such technologies] that use encryption and coding to improve transparency, efficiency and trust in information sharing." The new portal goes on to list a variety of potential blockchain applications that government agencies are currently considering.

These include federal personnel workforce data, appropriated funds, and federal assistance and foreign aid delivery applications, as well as for government-issued credentials like visas, passports, Social Security numbers, and birth certificates. Other possible uses include financial management, procurement, and IT asset and supply chain management, as well as for smart contracts, patents, trademarks, copyrights, and royalties.

Earlier this summer, GSA hosted an inter-agency Blockchain Forum with the goal of providing a platform for various government agencies to discuss, share, and develop blockchain use cases. The forum was attended by more than 100 federal managers from "dozens" of federal agencies.

The GSA is not alone. In June, digital currency news site Coindesk reported that the U.S. State Department had formed a blockchain working group. Other agencies also exploring applications for the technology include the Department of Health and Human Services, which held a blockchain-related hackathon in March, and the Commerce Department, which hosted an event exploring blockchain use in digital copyright protection late last year.

GSA Blockchain portal

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