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DMV, CDT Officials to Join First Virtual Blockchain Group Meeting

The Blockchain Working Group altered timelines for two recent meetings in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The group will hear from tech officials at two major state agencies next week and consider a definition for the electronic ledger technology.

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The state Blockchain Working Group will hear from top tech officials next week at its first meeting since the March 19 statewide stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

The working group of technologists, legislators and academics, convened last year by the California Government Operations Agency (GovOps), canceled its March 13 Finance Subcommittee meeting and postponed its March 24 Group meeting — but on April 7, members will hold their first-ever all-virtual meeting. Among the takeaways:

The agenda is “largely the same” as the group’s postponed meeting, Chairperson Camille Crittenden, executive director of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the Banatao Institute, told Techwire via email. But it could yield at least one important milestone for the membership: an agreed-upon definition for the electronic ledger technology — something in the works since last year, and an important step ahead of the group’s July 1 report on blockchain to the state Legislature.

Crittenden called it “likely” that a definition would be finalized, since members have discussed the draft definition and proposed revisions have been released.

In December, the group considered a definition of blockchain technology from members Brian Behlendorf, executive director of Hyperledger, and David Tennenhouse, chief research officer for VMware, as something used “to build decentralized systems that increase the verifiability of data shared amongst a group of participants, which brings increased trust to the overall system”; and including “specialized datastores, sometimes called ‘distributed ledgers,’ that provide a verifiable ordering of transactions on the datastore.”

• The working group will hear from state Chief Information Officer Amy Tong, director of the California Department of Technology, and three other department CIOs during an informational presentation on the state process for adopting new tech — with the goal of informing the group on “state adoption of blockchain for specific applications.” Tong will discuss results of a state CIO survey. Presenting will be Benjamin Bonte, CIO for the California Department of Industrial Relations; Sergio Gutierrez, agency information officer for the California Environmental Protection Agency; and Kem Musgrove, CIO for the state Franchise Tax Board.

Crittenden said group members wanted to hear directly from the agency IT leaders who would be charged with implementing any proposed blockchain solutions, and whose “budgets and workforce would be most affected by adopting new platforms.”

• Members of the working group will also hear from California Department of Motor Vehicles Chief Deputy Director Kathleen Webb and its Chief Digital Transformation Officer Ajay Gupta. The two spoke at the premiere DMV Vendor Day in October; and in January, Gov. Gavin Newsom elevated Gupta to his current role from that of special consultant and adviser to DMV Director Steve Gordon. Crittenden said DMV is exploring potential use cases for blockchain as part of strategic planning for the agency’s digital transformation.

“We look forward to hearing from its leaders regarding the opportunities and challenges it has encountered in its evaluations thus far,” Crittenden said.

Anita Gore, DMV’s deputy director of communications, said via email the agency “is looking to collaborate with the working group and is in the preliminary stages of exploring potential uses of the technology.”

Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.