Deputy Secretary John Sullivan Delivers Remarks at the Blockchain Forum

Deputy Secretary John Sullivan Delivers Remarks at the Blockchain Forum


DEPUTY SECRETARY SULLIVAN: Thank you, Thomas,
for that introduction. We discovered in talking this morning that
if you spend enough time in government you overlap and meet so many people. Thomas and I spent time together at OPIC about
10 years ago. So good morning, everyone, and thanks for
all of you being here and supporting this event. I am encouraged to see so many representatives
from various U.S. Government agencies, including, of course,
our colleagues from USAID, but from other government agencies, the private sector, academia,
nonprofits, and foreign embassies. Your presence underscores the importance of
this forum in gathering a group of people from every sector to talk about this exciting
technology, so thank you for being here. Blockchain has the potential to become a transformative
technology of our lifetime. It is increasing its footprint in our daily
lives every day and is expected to play a major role in trade, business, healthcare
management, and finance, and we hope at the State Department as well. We are – we’re – in fact, we are quite
confident of that. Through Blockchain we can track movements
of goods in the shipping industry; we can verify someone’s ID; we can safely transfer
money and payments across borders in real time. It’s no wonder that Blockchain technology,
a market that could grow to more than $40 billion by 2022 according to at least one
estimate, has captured the attention of governments and international organizations worldwide. Estonia, a leader in this technology, has
embraced the use of Blockchain to offer government-issued digital IDs. Last year, the Georgian Government launched
a project in partnership with the private sector to register land titles using a private
Blockchain. In the UAE, the government has started a goal
of using Blockchain technologies to create a paperless Dubai by 2020. The Singaporean Government has also partnered
with the private sector to open a center for Blockchain technology. And finally, the UN is working with a number
of companies to create Blockchain pilot projects that help vulnerable populations, such as
refugees, by developing economic identities and delivering humanitarian aid more efficiently. So Blockchain technology is on the move around
the world. It is, therefore, essential that we better
understand this cutting-edge technology, as it becomes more ubiquitous in our economy. Today, as we consider this far-reaching technology
and its potential applications across all sectors, we should have a couple of goals
in mind. First, speaking on behalf of the U.S. Government, we want to educate ourselves about
how we can better leverage Blockchain technology. With so many groups here, we recognize the
opportunity to explore together the potential applications of this technology, to strengthen
our national security, and promote greater economic prosperity. And in particular, we’re excited about the
many ways Blockchain technology could also increase transparency and accountability here
at the State Department and across the federal government. In the simplest terms, we’re always open
to exploring new ways to preform government functions more efficiently and effectively. This forum also has implications, as Thomas
suggested, for our ongoing redesign efforts at the State Department and USAID. We’re interested to learn whether Blockchain
technology could have direct applications to many of the key features of our proposed
redesign plan – for example, in maximizing the impact and accountability of foreign assistance. Two major challenges in foreign assistance
that Blockchain technology could address are, first, corruption, fraud, or misappropriation
of funds and, second, inefficiencies within the aid delivery process itself. This forum will include discussions of Blockchain-based
aid-tracking systems that promise to bring more transparency to foreign assistance dollars
from the donor to the beneficiary. That’s incredibly important to our work
here. Blockchain technology could also play an important
role in improving our IT platforms. A breakout group this afternoon will evaluate
the attributes of Blockchain technology that are relevant to cyber security, encryption
and hashing of data, immutable records, and decentralized and distributed networks. Protecting our cyber infrastructure and providing
resilient and relevant technology to the women and men of the State Department and USAID
is crucial to helping them do their jobs efficiently all around the world, 24 hours a day. In addition to learning more about your experiences
with this technology and how we can better utilize it at the department and across the
federal government, our second goal for this forum is to support public-private collaboration
by providing an environment that will enable those potential partnerships to develop. The global challenges we face are too complex
for any single entity to tackle alone. We need each other. Through these partnerships, we can take advantage
of the creativity, unique capacity, and resources of all sectors to advance our diplomacy and
development objectives. Nowhere is this partnership more relevant
than with the new technologies that are quickly evolving. So we look forward to spending the day exploring
ways we can further collaborate and build more public-private partnerships. Blockchain technology is not a panacea; it’s
not the answer to every problem. But we’re certainly hopeful that the State
Department and the federal government can leverage this technology to make us more efficient
and better able to serve the American people. And we know, without a doubt, that it will
take all of those represented in this room and many more working together to harness
this technology for more efficient and effective diplomacy and a stronger, more resilient United
States. Thank you all for being with us today. And I look forward to our discussions at this
forum. (Applause.)

Danny Hutson

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