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IBM wants to prep government for blockchain tech

Photo: Petras Malukas / AFP / Getty Images

IBM is encouraging the U.S. government to find ways to make use of blockchain technology to improve its services, but also suggests federal officials take their time and start with modest projects.

Why it matters: While much of the attention around government and blockchain has been around regulating cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, adoption of other blockchain technologies could help deliver services more efficiently, IBM said yesterday at a House subcommittee hearing and in speaking with Axios.

Gennaro Cuomo, IBM's VP of blockchain technologies, tells Axios he wants to "get government ready for blockchain." Big Blue has already been focused on developing blockchain technology for use in various industries. At the same time, he had some advice for those interested in diving in:

1. Don't rush: "I grew up in an age of the internet and I think emulating that is a good way," he says. "Only after use and understanding with your hands, then make the appropriate policy.”

2. Start small: "I think one of the things is that you quickly go to moonshot projects — 'let's redo social security' [for example]," he says. "But let’s start with more practical things like land registry, identity management. ... But it’s gonna start by dreaming big and starting incrementally.”

  • One of his recommendations is that governments apply blockchain tech to projects already in development as a way to ease into it.

The other side: Several committee members raised concerns about hacks, inspired by headlines of cryptocurrency theft. (That's become a big concern among lawmakers given recent breaches of companies like Equifax.)

  • Such concerns may be overblown, since many hacks amount to people giving away their passwords or having them stolen, which can also lead to other types of theft, Cuomo says.
  • However, he points out that yesterday's discussion showed lawmakers have much better understanding of the tech in comparison to two years ago when he spoke to another committee.