Could blockchain tech be the key to helping Austin’s homeless population personal info on hand?

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The University of Texas is now looking into the benefits of creating a digital wallet for people experiencing homelessness.

Officials say missing proof of identity can often prevent access to critical services like housing and health care. Information like birth certificates, immunizations, and doctor’s visits could be stored easily and conveniently for those with housing challenges.

Dell Medical School researchers are looking into the effectiveness of using blockchain technology to help solve this issue.

Blockchain is a system of recording and distributing digital information.

“The information is not centrally stored anywhere,” says Dr. Anjum Khurshid, associate professor at Dell Medical School. “It’s actually very much in the control of the individual through their wallet on the Blockchain and the Blockchain then provides control over the information and who can use it, who can share it, how you can change that information over a brief period of time.”

Both the City of Austin and Dell Med have already been involved in a pilot of the concept. Back in 2018, Austin was one of 35 cities selected for “The Mayor’s Challenge Competition,” sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies. The prize came with a $100,000 grant to test over six months.

Last year, the school published the findings, which found the technology could be effectively used this way, but with limitations still to be figured out, including user adoption, cost-effectiveness and scalability.

Researchers say they are now developing and testing digital applications that can be used in the near future.