Austin is piloting blockchain to improve homeless services – TechCrunch

While the vagaries of the cryptocurrency markets are retaining crypto buyers glued to their CoinDesk graphs, the true doable of blockchain is its capacity to remedy actual human demanding situations in a decentralized, personal, and safe method. Government officers have an increasing number of investigated how blockchain would possibly remedy vital issues, however now one town intends to transfer ahead with a real implementation.

The town of Austin is piloting a brand new blockchain platform to improve identification services for its homeless inhabitants, as a part of a aggressive grant awarded via the Mayor’s Challenge program subsidized via Bloomberg Philanthropies. Austin was once one among 35 towns to be awarded pilot grants, and the highest town from that staff will in the long run be awarded $five million.

Steve Adler, the mayor of Austin since 2015, defined to TechCrunch that “at a high level, [the pilot] is trying to figure out how to solve one of the challenges we have in our community related to the homeless population, which is how to keep all the information of that individual with that individual.”

Identity is a number of the thorniest demanding situations for governments to remedy, in particular for marginal populations just like the homeless or refugees. As Sly Majid, Chief Services Officer for Austin, stated, “If you have your backpack stolen or if your social security card gets wet and falls apart, or if you are camping and the city cleans up the site and takes your possessions, you have to start all over from the beginning again.” That is devastating for marginal populations, as it implies that the cycle of poverty persists. “It really prevents you from going about and doing the sort of activities that allow you to transition out of homelessness,” he persisted.

Austin has been on an financial tear, turning into one of the vital most sensible startup hubs within the United States and an increasing number of drawing ability from main towns like San Francisco. But, “For everything that is going right, we have some challenges that are shared by a lot of large cities,” Adler stated. That dizzying expansion has raised housing costs, making it harder to improve the town’s homelessness price. Some 2,000 people are homeless within the town in accordance to a census taken previous this 12 months, with a number of thousand extra at quite a lot of states of transition.

The town sought after to improve the facility of its patchwork of presidency and personal homeless provider suppliers to be offering built-in and complete assist. There are a variety of separate demanding situations right here: verifying the identification of an individual in quest of assist, understanding what care that exact has up to now gained, and empowering the person to “own” their very own data, and in the long run, their future.

The function of the town’s blockchain pilot program is to consolidate the identification and necessary data of every homeless particular person in a protected and confidential method whilst offering a way for provider suppliers to get right of entry to that knowledge. Adler defined that “there are all kinds of confidentiality issues that arise when you try to do that, so the thought was that blockchain would allow us to bridge that need.”

By the use of blockchain, the hope is that the town may change paper data, that are laborious to set up, with digital encrypted data that may be extra dependable and safe. In addition, the blockchain platform may create a decentralized authentication mechanism to examine a specific particular person’s identification. For example, a homeless services employee working within the box may probably use their cell software to examine an individual reside, with no need to deliver any individual again to an place of business for processing.

More importantly, necessary data at the blockchain may construct over the years, so other suppliers would know what services an individual had used up to now. Majid equipped the instance of well being care, the place it is crucially necessary to know the historical past of a person. The concept is that, when a homeless particular person walks right into a health facility, the blockchain would supply all of the affected person historical past of that exact to the supplier. “Here was your medical records from your last clinic visits, and we can build off the care that you were given last time,” he stated. Austin is partnering with the Dell Medical School on the University of Texas to determine how highest to put into effect the blockchain for scientific execs.

Identity is a well-liked space for buyers thinking about blockchain and decentralization extra typically. As I wrote about previous this week, Element, a New York City-based startup co-founded via famed deep finding out researcher Yann LeCun, hopes to supply decentralized identification to other people in growing nations like Indonesia and the Philippines. Austin is exploring partnering with decentralized startups like BanQu to put into effect the main points of the provider for the town.

Majid famous that “It’s an iterative process for us, … and we need to crawl before we walk, and walk before we run.” Adler believes that this system is an instance of the facility of fusing govt and personal business. Austin “tries to work with new industries, and new technologies, and new economies and tries to find the proper intersection of government innovation and responsibility,” he stated. If blockchain can improve homelessness right here, that resolution may raise during the sector.

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