The city of Austin, Texas is getting ready to implement a pilot blockchain platform that will enable it to better manage the homeless population. The blockchain platform has been specifically designed to help homeless people in the city with regard to effective identity management. The platform is part of a competitive grant created by a collaboration between the city and Bloomberg Philanthropies. Austin is one of 35 cities that has received grants for blockchain pilot programs and the top city stands the chance of winning an additional $5 million.
In recent year, Austin has been transformed into a bustling economic hub, attracting professionals from other major U.S. cities. This has led to a spike in housing prices that has left over 2,000 individuals homeless. In addition, several thousands are said to be in various transition states as far as the accommodation arrangements are concerned, inching dangerously close to homelessness.
Identity management remains a big issue for the homeless population. Being homeless, these individuals have to move about with all their possessions on them. It, therefore, becomes harder to manage their identities since they have no fixed addresses. The inability to properly identify these people goes a long way in prolonging the cycle of misery for them. No ID translates to no means of accessing government social assistance programs that can help them secure a job, escape homelessness and build a better future for themselves.
It is for these reasons that the city of Austin is looking to leverage blockchain technology into creating a decentralized identity management framework for the homeless people in the city. Commenting on the project, Steve Adler, the mayor of the Austin said that the project is being designed to capture the vital information of homeless people in the city. The blockchain project will help city officials verify the identity of the homeless person seeking assistance and identifying the assistance programs that the said individual has previously received. Afterward, the program will be used to empower the individual by giving him a way to own his/her own records as the first step towards getting a better life.
According to the mayor, one of the first items on the agenda is the consolidation of the information of all homeless people in the city. By using a blockchain-based platform, the information will be kept secure, confidential, and trustworthy. With the sensitive nature of the information being captured, Mayor Adler believes a blockchain-based platform is the smartest move as it delivers robust security and privacy features as well as creating a platform where aid workers can easily attend to the needs of the homeless.
The pilot blockchain project will replace the paper records and electronic databases that are difficult to manage. The project will also provide a decentralized platform that can allow aid workers perform on-the-spot verification on a homeless person rather than face the hassle of bringing them back to the office. Over time, the project is expected to consolidate the records of the homeless population in Austin. This can then become critical for support services like healthcare which is why the city is partnering with Dell Medical School at the University of Texas to work out modalities for incorporating medical care into the program.
Blockchain developers across the globe are leveraging the technology to solve the identity management problem in many countries and cities around the world. A New York-based startup called Element is attempting to use the blockchain to help developing countries like the Philippines and Indonesia to improve their identity management apparatus. IBM is also another serious stakeholder in the blockchain-based identity management industry.