Last week, Tech:NYC, NYCEDC, and IBM hosted the first Blockchain 101 Policy Lab, in conjunction with Blockchain Week NYC. The evening featured an overview of blockchain technology from IBM, demos from blockchain startups, and a Q&A with Assemblymember Clyde Vanel.
The motivation for this Policy Lab was simple: blockchain technology has become an important innovative force in the New York technology ecosystem and the implications the technology could have on our lives is far reaching. Some people may only associate blockchain with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum, but nearly any service can be put on blockchain. As questions about the impact of blockchain become more pressing, we thought it made sense to teach policymakers and their staffs about the technology to help them legislate smartly.
We began the evening with an overview of blockchain from Kathryn Harrison, director at IBM Blockchain. Check out this presentation to see a few explanations that Harrison outlined. After Harrison’s presentation, three of our members who are focused on reinventing blockchain technology — CoverUS, Kadena, and OpenLaw — presented their inventive blockchain applications to the room. After the presentations, the companies then demoed their services in a more in-depth fashion in the lounge at Galvanize, where we hosted the event.
The night was capped off with a speech by Assemblymember Clyde Vanel, who has committed to introducing blockchain technology to government and making New York the best city for fintech. Vanel started the conversation by saying government must care about building trust, especially when it comes to citizen records, and that blockchain could help improve accountability for birth and death records, school transcripts, voting records, and more.
Vanel also explored other ideas and praised the tech ecosystem: “If you buy a bond directly from New York State, we give you a fancy paper with a seal. Can we token-ize that?” Vanel told the crowd. “These are proposals we are having, but it’s difficult in government to get some of these things through. That’s why it’s important to have you here so we can have that discussion and try to get New York to a better place. The government is slow, so you guys need to push us to get there faster.”
Monday night’s event coincided with the NYCEDC’s announcement Monday of two new blockchain initiatives that will have far-reaching impacts on the industry in New York. Under the NYCEDC’s guidance, the city will open a blockchain resource center and host a public blockchain project competition.
We look forward to hosting more Policy Labs events in the future and can’t wait to see what additional blockchain innovations we begin to see here in NYC.