Blockchain. This word keeps popping up in the news and online. Many predict that blockchain technology will transform our understanding of currency and the ways we do business.

Hamse Warfa, a presenter at last month's TEDx Fargo event, shared his vision to use blockchain to connect the world's poor to the global economy.

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But what is blockchain?

Blockchain is a secure record that broadcasts transactions publicly while keeping identities private. It allows two parties to exchange goods and currency without needing a third party to secure the transfer of goods from each party. This record can also support the creation of "smart contracts" that execute automatically when certain criteria have been met.

Blockchain can be used to track crops, protect health data, transfer money across national borders, create secure and trustworthy voting systems, and much more.

While we are still in the early stages of understanding how blockchain will transform our society, clearly the potential uses for this technology are diverse. Only time and experimentation from entrepreneurs and tinkerers will show exactly the impact blockchain will have. The Center for the Study of Public Choice and Private Enterprise at North Dakota State University is hosting the conference RAP on Blockchain on Oct. 27 in Fargo. The vision for this conference is to develop our understanding of this burgeoning technology, explore its implications for commerce and policy, and support entrepreneurs who seek to use and share this technology for the betterment of society. The call for papers and presentations for RAP on Blockchain is currently open to entrepreneurs, policymakers, technologists, academics and others interested in presenting at the conference. Proposals can be submitted online at The deadline to apply is Aug. 15. We are excited to bring this unique conference to North Dakota. We hope discussing these ideas will help spur innovation to strengthen our economy and enhance well-being.

Caton is an assistant professor of agribusiness and applied economics and a faculty fellow at the Center for the Study of Public Choice and Private Enterprise at North Dakota State University.