Austin is piloting blockchain to enhance homeless companies • TechCrunch


Whereas the vagaries of the cryptocurrency markets are maintaining crypto merchants glued to their CoinDesk graphs, the actual potential of blockchain is its functionality to resolve actual human challenges in a decentralized, personal, and safe method. Authorities officers have more and more investigated how blockchain would possibly resolve important issues, however now one metropolis intends to maneuver ahead with an precise implementation.

The town of Austin is piloting a brand new blockchain platform to enhance identification companies for its homeless inhabitants, as a part of a aggressive grant awarded by the Mayor’s Challenge program sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies. Austin was one in all 35 cities to be awarded pilot grants, and the highest metropolis from that group will in the end be awarded $5 million.

Steve Adler, the mayor of Austin since 2015, defined to TechCrunch that “at a excessive degree, [the pilot] is attempting to determine learn how to resolve one of many challenges we now have in our group associated to the homeless inhabitants, which is learn how to hold all the data of that particular person with that particular person.”

Identification is among the many thorniest challenges for governments to resolve, significantly for marginal populations just like the homeless or refugees. As Sly Majid, Chief Providers Officer for Austin, stated, “You probably have your backpack stolen or in case your social safety card will get moist and falls aside, or in case you are tenting and town cleans up the positioning and takes your possessions, it’s important to begin throughout from the start once more.” That’s devastating for marginal populations, as a result of it implies that the cycle of poverty persists. “It actually prevents you from going about and doing the type of actions that let you transition out of homelessness,” he continued.

Austin has been on an economic tear, changing into one of many high startup hubs in america and increasingly drawing talent from major cities like San Francisco. However, “For the whole lot that’s going proper, we now have some challenges which can be shared by a variety of massive cities,” Adler stated. That dizzying progress has raised housing prices, making it tougher to enhance town’s homelessness price. Some 2,000 individuals are homeless in the city in accordance with a census taken earlier this 12 months, with a number of thousand extra at varied states of transition.

The town wished to enhance the flexibility of its patchwork of presidency and personal homeless service suppliers to supply built-in and complete assist. There are a variety of separate challenges right here: verifying the identification of an individual searching for assist, understanding what care that particular person has beforehand acquired, and empowering the person to “personal” their very own data, and in the end, their future.

The objective of town’s blockchain pilot program is to consolidate the identification and important data of every homeless particular person in a protected and confidential method whereas offering a way for service suppliers to entry that data. Adler defined that “there are every kind of confidentiality points that come up whenever you attempt to try this, so the thought was that blockchain would enable us to bridge that want.”

Through the use of blockchain, the hope is that town may exchange paper data, that are arduous to handle, with digital encrypted data that might be extra dependable and safe. As well as, the blockchain platform may create a decentralized authentication mechanism to confirm a specific particular person’s identification. For example, a homeless companies employee working within the area may doubtlessly use their cell system to confirm an individual dwell, with out having to convey somebody again to an workplace for processing.

Extra importantly, important data on the blockchain may construct over time, so totally different suppliers would know what companies an individual had used beforehand. Majid supplied the instance of well being care, the place it’s crucially necessary to know the historical past of a person. The concept is that, when a homeless particular person walks right into a clinic, the blockchain would supply the complete affected person historical past of that particular person to the supplier. “Right here was your medical data out of your final clinic visits, and we are able to construct off the care that you got final time,” he stated. Austin is partnering with the Dell Medical College on the College of Texas to work out how greatest to implement the blockchain for medical professionals.

Identification is a well-liked space for buyers focused on blockchain and decentralization extra usually. As I wrote about earlier this week, Component, a New York Metropolis-based startup co-founded by famed deep studying researcher Yann LeCun, hopes to offer decentralized identification to folks in growing nations like Indonesia and the Philippines. Austin is exploring partnering with decentralized startups like BanQu to implement the main points of the service for town.

Majid famous that “It’s an iterative course of for us, … and we have to crawl earlier than we stroll, and stroll earlier than we run.” Adler believes that this system is an instance of the ability of fusing authorities and personal trade. Austin “tries to work with new industries, and new applied sciences, and new economies and tries to seek out the correct intersection of presidency innovation and accountability,” he stated. If blockchain can enhance homelessness right here, that answer may carry all through the world.



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