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The state of Ohio is allowing residents to pay their taxes in cryptocurrency. As the American public loses confidence in a government that’s seen as lacking in tech savvy, Ohio is using virtual currencies to piggyback off the public’s faith in the tech industry's emerging developments. We explore the insights behind how implementing new tech services could restore people’s faith in government institutions.

As governments from India to China work to keep cryptocurrencies out of official dealings, the state of Ohio is making more space for them. Ohio’s treasurer, Josh Mandel, has gone against the current of many American politicians and spoken out in favour of crypto – “I do see [Bitcoin] as a legitimate form of currency,” he noted. Given Mandel’s enthusiasm, businesses in Ohio are now able to pay their taxes using Bitcoin through ohiocrypto.com, with the intention of extending the option to other cryptocurrencies in time.

Ohio leverages trust in tech with bitcoin tax payments Ohio leverages trust in tech with bitcoin tax payments
Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design (2018) ©

With the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer marking the largest-ever drop in trust across institutions, word of a global ‘trust implosion’ has people fearing that the social glue that holds society together is no longer sticky, and the world as we know it could come apart at the seams. Among government, businesses, the media, and NGOs, trust dropped across the board, with only 29% of people trusting government officials, while Pew Research Center found that just 3% of Americans trust the government in Washington to do what’s right ‘just about always’, marking a near-historic low. By introducing Bitcoin tax payments, Ohio is tapping the 17% of American Gen Yers who already own cryptocurrency and the 8% planning to invest in cryptocurrency in the future.

“In the digital age, the collapse of faith in institutions has left a trust vacuum, and new systems – largely led by technological innovations – have rushed to fill it. “Technology is enabling trust across huge networks of people, organisations and intelligent machines in ways that are unbundling traditional trust hierarchies,” says Rachel Botsman, a world-renowned trust expert, lecturer at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School. “The blockchain offers a new trust model,” she says. “One where trust doesn't need to be mediated by a centralised authority such as government or a bank but where people who might not otherwise trust each other can agree on a single truth or common record of events.”

The loss in trust of institutions encourages people to place their trust in alternative places The loss in trust of institutions encourages people to place their trust in alternative places
Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design (2017) ©

In the eyes of many Americans, the state is seen as slow-moving and behind the digital times – a quality that ranges from endearingly exasperating to genuinely politically irresponsible, depending on the topic. By accepting Bitcoin, Ohio’s government is portraying itself as tech-savvy and forward thinking. America looks to be a nation that is placing its faith more in tech companies rather than traditional institutions. By aligning itself with contemporary tech developments such as cryptocurrencies, Ohio can leverage the public’s confidence in tech, rather than pit itself against it.

Mira Kopolovic is a behavioural analyst at Canvas8, which specialises in behavioural insights and consumer research. She has a Master’s degree in creative industries, which focused on artist-brand collaborations, and spends her spare time poring over dystopian literature.

Canvas8

05 Dec 18
3 min read

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