Ohio State encourages blockchain cybersecurity technology before legislators

Posted: August 28, 2018

If blockchain technology works for bitcoin, can it work for Ohio? 

State leaders recently proposed implementing it as a way to improve cybersecurity as well as efficiency in government and business. Faculty from The Ohio State University also announced their commitment to assist.

Blockchain is a linked digital record where data cannot be changed without the assent of the entire connected network. Every time data is updated, it is recorded so users can see who modified what and when.

Ohio Governor John Kasich signed legislation earlier this month allowing for new uses of blockchain technology in the state. 

Political, business and university leaders held a press conference Aug. 23 to explain the technology and its potential. Ohio is one of the first states to adopt legislation recognizing the use of blockchain technology to save and secure electronic records in an array of industries, from financial services to supply chain management, real estate and medical records, according to JobsOhio.

Hesham El Gamal, chair of Ohio State’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, attended the hearing to offer encouragement for incorporating the technology, as well as university assistance in its implementation and research.

“It is commendable that the state legislature has recognized the importance of blockchain as a potential transformational technology,” El Gamal said. “Ohio State is in a perfect position to assist the legislature with a state-wide effort to leverage this technology for economic development and workforce education and training.''

The state press conference shed light on the importance of understanding blockchain technology and its potential to drive economic and workforce development, as well as the opportunity to increase government efficiency and strengthen cybersecurity measures. 

With Ohio State’s role in the Columbus Smart City initiative, leaders see blockchain as a way to lure more participating tech-savvy businesses into the state. Workforce development was a major part of the discussion as this field continues to grow.

El Gamal also echoed the need to retain talent in the state. In academia, faculty have the unique opportunity to research technology problems on a long-term basis. He said engineering professors in the ECE department are excited about the progression of blockchain technology in the state. 

“We can embrace risk and consider technologies when they start and try to open up avenues from the private sector,” he said. “We get an amazing opportunity and privilege to work with the brightest minds.”

El Gamal said his 18 years at Ohio State made him aware of its potential in regard to training the next-generation on blockchain implementation.

“I can assure everyone that the talent we have at Ohio State and other universities across the state, are among the top, if not the top in the nation,” he said.

Where they can all converge on this issue, El Gamal said, is working to retain that talent so graduates in these fields stay in Ohio. He is encouraged by the increased development of a tech-friendly “ecosystem” in the state.

“If we want to retain our top talent we have to give them opportunities here,” he said. “Our students now, in terms of blockchain, are engaging in research that can actually lead to very unexpected results.”

Some of this research, he said, could help low-income families receive high-speed Internet access, or improve the healthcare industry. Researchers are looking into applications for blockchain where others might not consider.

“It will have an impact, not only for economic development, but for community building,” El Gamal said. “This is a technology that is, in my opinion, one of the three revolutionary technologies we are looking at right now – blockchain, artificial intelligence and cyber security are going to change the world.”

Because blockchain is a newer technology, he said, Ohio can have more opportunities to become a leader in this realm. 

“I think focusing on our talent. Making sure they get the right training, the right education. They get engaged in technology development and research, that allows them to be excited about entering the field,” he said.

Ohio State remains passionate about encouraging students and faculty to pursue entrepreneurship, El Gamal said.

“Ohio continues to lead on various technological fronts, and blockchain technology is a great opportunity for our state to prevent brain-drain and keep talent in Ohio to make us a leader in technological advancement and economic and workforce development,” Speaker of the Ohio House Ryan Smith said. “The underlying use of blockchain technology can be utilized for a multitude of purposes and has the potential to innovate state government, making it more efficient, secure and transparent.” 

The press conference can be viewed here: http://www.ohiochannel.org/video/press-conference-8-23-2018-blockchain-…