Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Virtual Backpack: Cloud-based Personal Info Management for the Homeless

Consider this: If you were homeless and didn't have a smartphone, a PC or a filing cabinet, where would you store your anything important to you like medical info, address history, passport scan, ID numbers, etc?

Virtual Backpack is a really unique Birmingham, UK-based initiative that provides the homeless with an online safety deposit box for their personal information. Specifically:
to reduce homelessness and help people into housing and employment, these key pieces of information are imperative to help them access vital local authority services. Virtual Backpack is making it easier for people to have any documentation that might be required to help improve their employment, health and living conditions.
Apparently the site has been around since 2009 which begs two questions:
  1. Should government be responsible for developing sites like these as part of their social assistance programs?
  2. Conversely, are sites like this even required if there are free 3rd party sites like Google Drive?
Most of us hope never to find ourselves in these circumstances, but if you did, wouldn't it be nice to know that you had access to a safe place to store your personal information, something that could be easily accessed from a library or other Internet terminal whenever you need it? Personally, I think that government-run personal info repositories would be a very useful service: Instead of relying on 3rd parties to host this type of information, it would be beneficial to citizens to know that they could safely store information in a secure, anonymous environment without their data being subject to appropriation by private companies.

I hope more government eService platforms include this type of functionality in the future. If Birmingham could do it 3 years ago, and with cloud-based services becoming more prevalent these days, it shouldn't be too complicated or too difficult to accomplish.

What do you think? Would you consider this good use of your taxpayer dollars?

(Source: UK Government Digital Service)

3 comments:

Miranda said...

Boy, I feel stupid. I've seen multiple flashdrive collection campaigns for the homeless and it didn't occur to me to cloud it.

The homeless folks I follow on twitter talk more about family photos than government docs.

Tanya Snook said...

Miranda: Makes sense that they would want a place to store personal photos as well. But I would guess that the governments assume they would do so on Facebook or Flickr.

Joe Lyons said...

Set up a gmail account for each service user and google drive fulfills the need for data storage.