A group of nine South Carolina technology entrepreneurs are binding together to push an ambitious vision for the state: bringing it onto the blockchain.
PalmettoChain, a newly incorporated nonprofit, has visions of using blockchain — essentially a novel form of storing information — to house all manner of the state's records. Its proponents say it could handle everything from property documents to voter registration.
Blockchain works by creating an unchangeable log of data entries and transactions that's distributed across several computers, which is why it's used to fuel digital currencies like bitcoin. By the same token, PalmettoChain says the technology could handle things like vital records, driver's license information and tax payments.
"We potentially have a whole other level of infrastructure here that we can develop," said Dennis Fassuliotis, executive director of PalmettoChain.
Other states have started to test the waters of blockchain technology. Tennessee now recognizes contracts entered on the blockchain, Florida has flirted with the idea of creating digital driver's licenses on the blockchain, and West Virginia is testing its use for absentee voting.
Fassuliotis says his group, which mostly includes academics and entrepreneurs, is looking for a similar niche for South Carolina to test. It's considering the possibility of creating a state-specific digital currency to run the planned system.
Even so, the idea may face reluctance in South Carolina, where blockchain and cryptocurrency startups are emerging but the law regulating them is still murky.
The state Attorney General’s office sent a Greenville startup a cease-and-desist order last month after it sold a cryptocurrency without registering it as a security. That case could begin to define terms key to the technology, like what counts as a security in South Carolina.
South Carolina's workforce board has awarded grants meant to improve digital literacy to three organizations, including the Medical University of South Carolina.
The State Workforce Development Board says it has distributed just over $225,000 for digital literacy. It says its aim is to give unemployed job seekers a way to get the skills they need to land work in the modern economy.
The grants will underwrite a program in MUSC's Project Rex, which offers services to people with autism. The initiative is launching a program called the Autism News Network, which will feature web interviews about the experience of living with autism. Its participants will film and edit the videos, which is meant to flesh out their skills.
The MUSC program received $100,000 of the workforce agency's funding. Epworth Children's Home in Columbia also received $100,000 to fund tech education for its high school students, and Greenville County Schools won just over $25,000 to include digital skills in its adult job readiness program.
"We have more work to do to prepare those unemployed for today's workforce," said Cheryl Stanton, executive director of the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce, in a statement. "These grants will help develop programs to improve the computer literacy skills for those in need so they can participate in today's changing workplace."
The Harbor Entrepreneur Center is accepting applications to its 14-week accelerator program through the end of next month.
The program typically accepts 10 or so startups, and it gives them a place to work for a year, pairs them with mentors and holds weekly classes on running a business. The latest running of the accelerator will be its 10th, and it will last from Aug. 7 to Nov. 6.
Applications are due Aug. 1, and they're available online at http://www.harborec.com/cohort10application/.