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Using Digital Footprints to Prove Where We Live

Idea Flow - Episode 2

Published onMar 26, 2021
Using Digital Footprints to Prove Where We Live

Idea Flow - Episode 2

Nearly half the world’s population lacks a home title or any other way to prove where they live. This simple fact has immense repercussions. In Puerto Rico, 60% of FEMA housing assistance claims were rejected after Hurricane Maria, primarily because applicants couldn't provide home titles. In Colombia, millions cannot return to homes taken by the FARC, because they cannot prove they had once occupied those homes. And in India, land disputes clog 25% of all court cases because neither party has the documents to prove their residency.

And yet, as our social and economic lives move online, we generate a wealth of data that reveals important things about us. When we use services like Google Maps, Facebook, Amazon and Lyft, we generate a rich tapestry of evidence about where we go, what we purchase, whom we interact with.  

A critical question emerges: can citizens be empowered to harness their own trove of digital evidence to prove where they live, and access the services they have been locked out of?

This session will examine the role that digital credentials and data trails can play in helping populations who lack formal property documents prove where they live and access the benefits tied to home ownership and occupancy. In particular, we will focus on the use case of helping disaster victims prove to FEMA that they are the rightful occupants of their homes, allowing them to qualify for home rebuilding aid. Together we will examine the most relevant data types and sources for proving where one lives, and discuss how disaster victims can collect, store and transmit this data in a secure and trustworthy manner.

caroline gerardo:

FEMA allows a sworn declaration with utility bills/insurance/tax receipts stating no other person has claim to the land. Many Puerto Ricans don’t know they can do this and don’t have the paperwork. 43000 people live in unsafe homes in Puerto Rico because they don’t have access to information, computers, wifi, as well as the money to hire an attorney to file deed transfers. A digital locker could compile all this information and be available for FEMA to download when residents file appeals rather than asking an 80 year old woman who doesn’t have an email to gather the information. Yes?