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2019 Government Innovation Awards

Austin helps homeless bridge the digital divide

Officials in Austin, Texas, are working on a blockchain-powered digital ID that would give people experiencing homelessness a secure way to store and access the personal records they need to obtain services such as housing, employment and health care.


Innovation Office, City of Austin, Texas

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Called MyPass, the ID would hold information such as Social Security number, criminal justice records and medical history. The city is working with technology partners to create what might eventually look like a digital public notary, said Kerry O’Connor, the city’s chief innovation officer.

The idea is that people would scan and upload their information onto a web-based platform, where a digital notary would validate and verify that information before putting it into a digital locker and appending the metadata to the blockchain. Service providers would be able to access only the data they needed.

“It’s a big open-ended question that we’re trying to solve for the actual interaction on the ground,” O’Connor said.

She expects MyPass to save money because of the reduction in duplicative records, but more importantly, it would ease access to services for the city’s 7,000 people experiencing homelessness. People in that situation need access to housing, mental health services and their prescription medications, O’Connor said, adding that “these are all pieces of their identity that this platform would empower them to share across the system in order to get the services they need.”

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