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Can blockchain save Wyoming? Why the Cowboy State is banking big on the technology « Back to Search Results

The buzzwords at Wyoming’s Legislature rarely change. For decades, lawmakers have talked about whether spending delivers enough “bang for the buck” or whether a bill is “ready for prime time.” Political observers of all stripes complain of legislators’ tendency to “kick the can.”

But this year, a new word entered the legislative lexicon: “blockchain.”

It came up at unexpected times, typically with a hearty dose of confidence attached, like when House Speaker Steve Harshman, R-Casper, was trying to convince a group of senators that his plan to funnel corporate filing fees from the Secretary of State’s office to schools was a sure thing.

“You can see the revenue coming out of their office — about $13 million per year,” Harshman said. “Now there are the blockchain boys ... and that thing is just starting to take off.”

That thing — “blockchain” — is a relatively new technology that allows for secure online transactions. It underlies virtual currencies like Bitcoin, but advocates say it’s also a useful tool for pretty much anything where internet security and verification matter (think bank transfers or online voting).

And, overlooking its seedy and sometimes strange reputation, blockchain seems to have captured the hearts of powerful Cowboy State players, from top lawmakers to Gov. Matt Mead’s economic diversity team and professors at the University of Wyoming. In just a few months, Wyoming went from one of just a small handful of states that barred virtual currency trading to a playground for blockchain entrepreneurs. But what blockchain can actually do for Wyoming remains unclear.

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