Becoming “Blockland:” Ohio wants to lead blockchain business

When it comes to the potential of the little understood blockchain technology, Valentina Isakina, financial services managing director for JobsOhio, doesn’t mince words.

She compares the impact of blockchain to the transformative impact the Internet has had on all of our lives.

“Or even bigger,” Isakina said in a recent interview.

Gov. John Kasich in August signed legislation making Ohio one of fewer than 10 states recognizing the use of blockchain to save and secure electronic records in an array of uses, from financial services to supply chain management, real estate and medical records and more.

To oversimplify a bit, blockchain can be described as a secure, digital form of record-keeping. Still, as important as its advocates say the tech is, blockchain and its possible impact remain little understood.

This is an edited transcript of a recent interview with Isakina.

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Isakina: "Blockchain is a different way to record, store and transact with data. If you think about how traditionally the accounting process works with an accounting ledger, recording on the left and the right transactions in one place, blockchain, to use a different word, is a distributed ledger or system. It allows different participants in the system to contribute to the transacting of the data.

“The information is distributed between different participants rather than stored in one place.”

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DDN: Why should Ohio care about blockchain?

Isakina: "No. 1, this technology is really transformative. If you think about what the Internet has done — and I'm not overestimating here; this is my professional view — what the Internet has done to advance the way people communicate, blockchain technology will make the same type of transformation to how we think about interactions between people, between organizations.

“It’s really almost like Internet 10.0 in a way, of communicating. And this is all happening with a more secure platform because of the distributed nature of the information. So instead of all of us being subject to a break-in or a leakage of information from one source, because nobody owns all of it, it’s all distributed between participants, only consensus allows transactions to be stored.”

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DDN: Columbus is home to its share of large financial services companies, and so is Ohio.

Isakina: "It's important for Ohio to be in the lead on this, No. 1. It's truly a a transformational technology. The fact that we are coming to the table — we were not No. 1 or No. 2, right? We needed to step back and think about it logically. But it's important for us to be in this space, to allow for innovations to take place. Because unless it's accommodated through legislation, some of the transactions would not be allowed.

“Now, we’re opening the door for new start-ups, new R&D investments by larger companies. We’re in a very, very good spot for this innovation to really be tested out.

“We’re a very large state, and we’re a very well diversified state. We have all the building blocks that are required for this technology to be truly transformational. We have financial services. We have health care. We have manufacturing.”

DDN: How has the industry reacted to the recent legislation?

Isakina: "This has allowed for a lot of the pent-up demand to now be openly explored, and to go to market. We see a significant number of start-ups coming to the plate, exploring a number of blockchain solutions in various applications."

DDN: Can you give an example of how this technology will be used in our daily lives? Or will it be mostly unseen to us?

Isakina: "The easy answer is, we may not even know that what we are doing is enabled through blockchain. Because right now, we don't know where all of our transaction data is stored. Is it stored by a financial institution? Or it might be stored somewhere else.

“What the customer should be expecting to receive as an benefit … is that this technology should enable faster, better and cheaper services. Things that are taking longer, such as for example purchasing a home and settling your title — if you’re a homeowner, you know what a painful process that is and how much money you have to pay for your title insurance — some of those kinks will be worked out. It will be a much smoother and less expensive process for the consumer. That’s the ultimate goal of this.”

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