Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Photo: S3studio/Getty Images

Trust in tech firms (or lack of it) is a big topic of conversation these days. IBM’s Bridget van Kralingen thinks blockchain technology could be a way to rebuild that trust.

What they're saying: Blockchain is best known for making cryptocurrencies like bitcoin possible, but IBM is experimenting with other uses for the distributed ledger technology. It has more than 400 initiatives underway — including tracking food, managing personal data, and determining the origin of prescription drugs.

“I see it as an operating system for trust,” van Kralingen, SVP of IBM Global Industries, Platforms and Blockchain, told Axios last week before speaking at the International Monetary Fund’s spring meeting in D.C. “It’s not a winner-takes-all model. For it to work and stay vibrant, many different players all have to get value.”

For example: The recent E.coli outbreak led to mass disposal of lettuce. Using a blockchain-based system to track the supply chain of food would allow vendors to pinpoint the farm it came from, locate the stores where it's sold, and throw away only the lettuce that's tainted.

  • Likewise, enterprise-level blockchain could be used to store, track and authenticate other types of digital records, like mortgages, payments, food, or health records.
  • IBM launched a joint venture with shipping giant Maersk to digitize and track every element in the supply chain, replacing paperwork with tamper-resistant digital records.
  • IBM announced a pilot project with Twiga Foods to process microloans to food kiosk owners in Kenya.

The privacy factor: As people become more wary of the data practices of some big online platforms, blockchain could allow individuals to store personal data and decide who gets permission to access it, giving them more control of their digital identity, van Kralingen said. It's also part of the company's focus on promoting responsible use of technology.

The catch: Blockchain is still not widely understood by governments and businesses, let alone the general public. In order for it to help restore trust in technology more broadly, people will first have to learn to trust it with their data.

Go deeper

11 mins ago - Podcasts

Google's chief health officer Karen DeSalvo on vaccinating America

Google on Monday became the latest Big Tech company to get involved with COVID-19 vaccinations. Not just by doing things like incorporating vaccination sites into its maps, but by helping to turn some of its offices and parking lots into vaccination sites.

Axios Re:Cap goes deeper into what Google is doing, and why now, with Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Google's chief health officer who previously worked at HHS and as health commissioner for New Orleans.

Biden signs order overturning Trump's transgender military ban

Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images

President Biden signed an executive order on Monday overturning the Trump administration's ban on transgender Americans serving in the military.

Why it matters: The ban, which allowed the military to bar openly transgender recruits and discharge people for not living as their sex assigned at birth, affected up to 15,000 service members, according to tallies from the National Center for Transgender Equality and Transgender American Veterans Association.

GOP Sen. Rob Portman will not run for re-election, citing "partisan gridlock"

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) announced Monday he will not run for a third term in the U.S. Senate in 2022, citing "partisan gridlock."

Why it matters: It's a surprise retirement from a prominent Senate Republican who easily won re-election in 2016 and was expected to do so again in 2022, creating an open Senate seat in a red-leaning swing state.