Some northern Nevada counties are using blockchain, the online ledger best known for helping secure virtual currencies such as bitcoin, to store digital versions of government records like birth and marriage certificates.
The Reno Gazette-Journal reports that as of December in Washoe County, about 950 couples had received secure digital marriage certificates to home computers and smartphones since the program debuted in April 2018.
The newspaper found that Elko County is trying similar technology for certified digital birth certificates.
Phil Dhingra at San Francisco-based Titan Seal said the Washoe County digital marriage certificate program uses the Ethereum blockchain because it has computing power that makes it hard to hack.
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He said he believes the number of digital certificates per year in the United States could at least match the billions of paper records that get a certificate or embossed seal of some kind.
Dhingra said people say they're happy that instead of having to wait seven to 10 business days, a digital marriage certificate can be e-mailed to them in less than 24 hours.
"Marriage licenses and certificates are separate documents.
Washoe County Clerk Nancy Parent said wedding licenses must be obtained in person at the County Clerk's office and are not available online.
Certificates are proof of marriage and are available via blockchain technology through the Washoe County Recorder's Office.
Because a lot of people come from other states to get married in Reno, a lot of certificates are delivered to people in outside Nevada, said Hunter Halcomb, a Washoe County systems technician.
"But some people say, 'Nah, I don't use email so I don't want it,'" Halcomb said.
She said that unlike a paper document that may be used once, a digital copy can be used as many times as the owner wants — as long as it is used in secure digital form. It can't simply be printed and used like a regular paper certificate.
Halcomb said that while institutions like the Social Security Administration are good at accepting digital certificates, agencies like state motor vehicle departments can vary with acceptance.
Despite the challenges, Washoe County is moving forward with more applications for digitizing paper records. One project the county is looking at using blockchain technology for a potential digital record recovery system in case of a disaster.