Tuesday was “Blockchain Day” at the Nevada Legislature. Representatives from tech companies spent the day talking to lawmakers about what the new technology will do.
“With any new emerging technology like blockchain, there’s an element of education and ensuring that legislators and members of the public are educated on what the emerging technology is, why it’s important and how it works,” Matthew Digesti, Vice President of Government Affairs and Strategic Initiatives for Blockchains said.
Blockchains is a software company that focuses on blockchain technology. It plans on building a smart city east of Sparks.
“When we’re fully up and running, what you’ll see is a smart city that incorporates public blockchain technology into our everyday lives and in a way that really returns the power back to the individual,” Digesti said.
Sen. Ben Kieckhefer is sponsoring four bills during this legislative session that would have a direct impact on blockchain technology. He sponsored one bill during the 2017 session that he says helped springboard the industry in Nevada.
“It really put Nevada on the map, both nationally and internationally, as a destination for companies to come and is having a direct effect on companies that want to come here and jobs being created in our state,” Kieckhefer, R-Reno said.
Digesti estimates that tech companies have invested more than $300 million in Nevada since that bill passed. This year’s bills would create a regulatory safe space for people to try new technology, allow companies to use blockchain technology to do their business transactions or internal documents, require local governments to take a look at accepting electronic records, and ensure that cryptocurrency is recognized as an intangible personal property which would make it exempt from personal property tax like stocks and bonds. Kieckhefer says having the tech companies in the building will help lawmakers understand blockchain technology better.
“It’s important for these companies to be here to help take people through what they do, the technology, so that people have a better understanding of it so when these bills come up for a vote, they know what they’re voting on.”
The goal of blockchain technology is to change how transactions are currently done on the internet. Rather than a private company handling the transaction, unaffiliated computers would keep track of exchanges of value over the internet.
“The power is that if done correctly, you can remove the middle man for almost any transaction, and so transactions become cheaper, more efficient, and it really is a peer-to-peer network where the individual is in control,” Digesti said.
“For most people, they’re not going to see it and they’re not going to have a direct interaction with the technology itself,” Kieckhefer said. “It’s just going to make what they do a lot safer, a lot more efficient, and allow them to conduct transactions person-to-person a lot more easily.”
Governor Steve Sisolak says the growth of this industry is critical for the state because it helps diversify the economy and continues to grow the state’s technology sector.
“The jobs that could come with blockchain is amazing,” Sisolak, D-Nevada said. “I mean, to be a coder and get into that field, you’re talking a lot of six-figure jobs for individuals and we just need to get the workforce trained and get the investment here.”
That workforce development is growing in the university and community college systems. Representatives from the University of Nevada, Reno joined the tech companies at the legislative building. They say it is important that the university plays a role in any new industry that comes to Nevada.
“The more people we can have a basic understanding of blockchain, what is it? It’s more than cryptocurrency,” Shera Alberti-Annunzio, Assistant Director for Workforce Development at the University of Nevada said. “How is it going to impact me in the future? What kind of jobs can I get in the future is critical for our university.”