Blockchain to be Tested in Austin to Help Homeless Individuals Access Important Documents

August 22, 2019

The city of Austin has announced that they will soon be testing a brand new initiative as a way to help ensure that those affected by homelessness will be able to access important types of documentation.

A partnership between Austin, the Austin-Travis County EMS, and Dell Medical School at the University of Texas is aiming to utilize blockchain technology with a program known as the MyPass Initiative, a totally optional initiative that will enable those who take advantage of it to store information such as Social Security numbers, identification cards, and various other types of medical history in a single digital location. For example, whenever someone who uses the MyPass system arrives to receive any kind of medical service, their information will be in a secure file, yet easily accessible to health professionals. 

Blockchain technology was popularized by bitcoin, but it can be used across many different platforms. Blockchain is a hyper-secure digital ledger that can record transactions (transactions can mean any information, not just financial transations) across many different computers, and once a transaction is submitted, it can’t be altered or changed after-the-fact. From money, to anti-virus, to produce, and now personal documentation, blockchain is a trustworthy system of recording data and information.

Advocates who work with Austin's homeless population have gone on record stating that it's extremely common for all sorts of important documentation that people need to get jobs, file taxes or receive medical care, to be stolen or lost.  This is especially true for homeless individuals who may not have access to a safe place to store their documents. Some people may assume that their information can be looked up whenever they make a visit to a doctor's office or other place that needs documentation, but that is very rarely the case.

Currently, the MyPass Initiative is under an experimentation-only status and is also part of the city of Austin's entry in the Bloomberg Philanthropies' U.S. Mayors Challenge. The city is part of a total of 35 “Champion Cities” that will receive a grant totaling $100,000 to construct a pilot that the city believes will be important to their overall population. Whoever is determined to be the competition's grand prize winner in October of this year will receive an award of $5 million. Furthermore, four other cities who have also entered the competition will earn $1 million each to develop and implement “a sustainable, scalable solution.”

According to information regarding the project, all digital documentation will be linked to an account that can be accessed on any device. The individual that the information belongs to will also retain full ownership of the information itself at all times, even when they no longer are homeless and/or after they receive medical care from a licensed health care provider. Additionally, they have full control over their personal data, and can choose to remove it from the blockchain platform at any time they wish to do so.

The city of Austin will soon be scheduling a pop-up Resource Clinic with the goal of educating members of the local homeless population about the MyPass Initiative.

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