The U.S. state of Ohio has made a bid to position itself at the fore of blockchain innovation, according to remarks made at a recent press conference at the Ohio Statehouse August 23.

A group comprising lawmakers, academics and figures from the business world were convened by Ohio House of Representatives Speaker Ryan Smith to discuss plans to foster the development of a blockchain ecosystem and delineate a strategic roadmap that would ward off a “brain drain” of blockchain talent from the state.

Smith situated blockchain as this decade’s “world-changing” innovation, then proceeded to outline what he thinks “it means for Ohio.” In this regard, he emphasized the technology’s potential to drive economic and workforce development, save tax dollars by increasing efficiency across government , and bolster the security of storing and circulating sensitive data in the public sector.

Smith further proposed encouraging higher education initiatives that would allow students to gain expertise in the technology, and appealed to parties across business, academia and state government to hold meetings on the future of blockchain in Ohio:

"Because this is so new and this is just beginning to take shape, we can position Ohio out front."

Matt Wald, president and CEO of cybersecurity and analytics lab Columbus Collaboratory spoke of blockchain’s proven economic benefits for the business world to innovate not only financial transactions, but also challenges such as supply chain tracking and data rights management.

While yesterday’s press reference did not propose further specific blockchain legislation as of yet, Wald alluded to the collaboration between Cyber Ohio and the state legislature to prepare a Senate Bill that was signed into state law this summer to formally recognize blockchain as a legitimate form of digital signature for business transactions. Wald noted this represented just a “first step” in the state’s support for the technology.

Ohio State University’s Professor Hesham El Gamal, chairman of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, echoed the need to retain talent in the state. He said that academic research into the technology is allowing for “unexpected” and “exciting” applications to emerge, singling out healthcare as one striking example. El Gamal made the passionate endorsement that blockchain is a “revolutionary” technology with community-wide and even world-transformative potential.

Alongside Ohio, U.S. states have been increasingly introducing robust regulatory measures to foster the technology’s adoption. This April, a bill allowing corporations to hold and share data on a blockchain was officially signed into Arizona state law, and the state’s Revised Statutes have stipulated that data “written” and stored on a blockchain is “immutable and auditable and provides an uncensored truth” since April 2017.