This week, Utah County Commissioner Amelia Powers Gardner became one of the first appointees to Utah’s Blockchain and Digital Innovation Task Force by Governor Spencer Cox.
Powers Gardner received a text message from the governor’s office on Monday notifying her that she had been appointed to the task force. She also received an emailed letter of her nomination signed by Cox on June 2.
“The goal was to have all the members selected in June, so since my letter was dated the second. I was one of the first, if not the first,” she said.
Up to 15 members will be selected, made up of a mix of government and industry representatives.
“They want to rely heavily on industry experts, and his goal is to end up helping the government and understanding and evaluating different things as technology comes in,” Powers Gardner said. “The task force is still in formation. We don’t even have all the members yet. I am one of the first members. I called the governor’s office, and asked who the other members were, and they said we didn’t know everyone yet.
House Bill 335, endorsing the task force, was signed by Cox in March.
An example of what the task force is supposed to do is to review legislation dealing with innovation and give assessments or recommendations on it.
One of the reasons Powers Gardner said she was placed on the task force was that she had experience implementing blockchains in Utah County.
In early 2020, while serving as Utah County Clerk/Auditor, she helped the county release a blockchain marriage license solution.
In doing so, day-to-day operations remained unchanged during the COVID-19 pandemic as many systems were automated.
“I have a real application and I understand how this can be implemented in government. If other government agencies have an idea and say, ‘Hey, we would like to use this digital innovation or use blockchain for this purpose’, the working group can help assess whether this is a viable use of the technology or possibly see if there are issues with it that need to be addressed.
“The reason the state wanted to have this task force is that so many people in general, including in government, don’t understand the new technology that’s emerging. It really gives a group of experts from industry and government the opportunity to get ideas across.
As far as Powers Gardner knows, she will be the only local government representative on the task force and possibly the only female member. She said she was aware of the list of people the governor’s office was considering serving on the task force.
“When they were floating around the names of potential people on the task force, there were only two female names,” she said. “So there’s a chance that I’m the only woman or one of two women in the 15-person task force.”
Powers Gardner was also the first woman to be elected Utah County Commissioner, so being the only woman in the room isn’t an unusual feeling for her.
“Women’s voices are so important to have around the table,” she added. “Women tend to evaluate things a little differently and that’s a good thing, especially when dealing with a large group. Having a diversity of thought gives everyone a better outcome in the end. So if I have the opportunity to ensure that women’s voices are heard and that we have a seat at the table, I am more than happy to fill that role.
The commissioner believes her new role can be used to better serve the county by being one of the first to discover innovative new ideas.
“As new ideas come up, most people won’t hear about an idea unless it’s implemented,” she said. “There may be times when something is not implemented for what it was supposed to do, but I will have the opportunity to review all new ideas and see if the citizens of the county of Utah will benefit from such technology.”
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