This piece originally appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune.
Utah just took a momentous step towards bringing paper-based government services into the 21st century. Over the next few months, the Beehive State will conduct a first-in-the-nation pilot program to examine the feasibility of a digital ID system utilizing blockchain technologies. As more states begin to recognize the importance of modernizing public services, they should emulate Utah’s approach of cautious optimism.
This month, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed a novel piece of legislation requiring the state’s Division of Technology Services to delve into the possibility of using new digital record schemas to establish a government-issued digital verifiable credential, better known as a digital ID. In contrast to other states like Colorado and Arizona that have begun to offer more traditional digital IDs that operate using centralized databases, Utah is taking things one step further and investigating how it might make a digitally native identification system built on blockchain technology.
In the simplest terms, a blockchain is a ledger of information recorded across a distributed network of computers where any changes to the ledger are verified using complex mathematics. Blockchains are a way to structure data that allows information to be stored and transferred without the need for a single, centralized intermediary such as a company or government to control the information or data flows.