The message from the US government was clear on Wednesday during the DC Blockchain Washington Summit, which saw officials call for more collaboration and cooperation. James Sullivan, the Department of Commerce International Trade Administration’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of Services, further reiterated the idea of collaboration between the government and the blockchain community by stating that the government “cannot make policy in the abstract”, as cooperation is key in realizing the full potential of blockchain in the public sector.
Government Applauding Blockchain’s Utility
During his speech he called out to the audience, welcoming recommendations as he closed. Although the session with the government official did not reveal any plans by the US government to launch a blockchain-based project, Sullivan hinted at the probability of blockchain finding its ways into some of the services offered by the government.
In addition, he commended the application of blockchain in enabling an efficient trade finance chain as evidenced by a variety of small businesses with fewer resources. He revealed that blockchain has enabled a closing of the trade finance gap that had previously kept small and medium-sized entities at a disadvantage. In his remarks, he applauded blockchain for its capacity to help small businesses.
Concerns Over ICO Regulation
However, for everyone else at the conference, the issue of cryptocurrency regulation was top of the list, with reports indicating conflicting opinions with regards to the use of blockchain technology in government. For instance, CoinDesk reported scepticism from an employee of a particular blockchain startup at the event, with concerns over plans by the government to take up its utility in some of its tech services. In general, most of the attendees voiced mixed expectations by the government, even though some of the officials revealed that blockchain could become a major technology suite in the long run, especially if it is implemented in the public sector.
According to IBM Public Service Blockchain Partner Mark Fisk, the aggregation of Blockchain to government employee data presents an opportunity for far more efficiency and improved accessibility. He spoke alongside Marcel Jemio who is the OPM (office of personnel management) chief data architect. He further stated that although “Blockchain in a lot of cases is going to be an enabler of solving the problem” it will not necessarily act in isolation, and that more tools will augment its capacity.
Further Uncertainties About Cryptocurrency Regulations
With the public warning issued by the US Securities Exchange Commission on Wednesday to ICO issuers on the subject of “potentially unlawful online platforms for trading digital assets,” the entire event was full of talks and rumors both online and offline, on the implication of the subpoenas issued to the ICO startups.
Reportedly, some attendees expressed willingness to welcome regulation in the ICO space, while others were concerned about the prospect as it is still early and would only lead to businesses being locked into a rigid model in an environment that is currently developing at a fast rate.
Inconsistencies in Government Departments
For some participants of the event, the fact that there is a lack of agreement between the CFTC, the SEC and the IRS on the definition of cryptocurrencies and a way forward concerning regulation to this burgeoning industry is a plus . The inconsistencies by the government bodies have been further reinforced by a court ruling that came about earlier during the week where the IRS was considered to view Bitcoin as a property while the CFTC considers it to be a commodity. On the other hand, Brian Quintenz, a CFTC commissioner, called upon cryptocurrency platforms to self-regulate while waiting for the government to come up with a final deliberation on the matter.
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