Category Archives: Americas

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Apple Co-founder Steve Wozniak Starts Blockchain VC Fund

Apple co-founder and iconic tech personality Steve Wozniak is now the co-founder of a blockchain venture capital fund called EQUI Global according to business outlet Verdict. The move comes after Wozniak shared his plans to become a part of the blockchain revolution earlier in August this year.

Wozniak co-founded EQUI Global despite his reputation of being skeptical towards the rapidly emerging blockchain industry. He once went on to claim that the blockchain bubble was similar to the bubble of the late twentieth century. But, later he also claimed that only Bitcoin makes sense and “only Bitcoin is pure digital gold”.

His new blockchain initiative, however, aims to change the concept of non-institutional investments by allowing investors to trade on external cryptocurrency exchanges through Equi Tokens, the native currency of his project. The Equi tokens are reportedly based on the Ethereum Blockchain which is the most widely used blockchain platform for the development of decentralized apps (dapps).

According to Verdict’s publication, Wozniak aims to lure “sophisticated investors” who are willing to channel their investments through the Equi Token platform. The model is based on easy liquidation of cryptocurrencies and more than 80% of the VC fund’s investments will be done in tech companies.

Wozniak is upbeat about his new project and said EQUI Global’s mission is to”seek, support and fund the blockchain and tech stars of tomorrow”. He also announced that over 20 businesses have signed partnerships with the new VC fund but nothing official has been declared as of yet.

Wozniak said:

“I get ideas pitched to me every single day, in fact, dozens and I always say no. Since I co-founded Apple with Steve Jobs, this is about the second time in twenty years that I actually said yes,”

But, according to the EQUI Global website, the VC fund has been running for almost a year since Wozniak’s latest announcement signaling that blockchain investment had been in his mind for a while. Initially, the founders wanted to launch an ICO for the native EQUI token that could be used to raise capital on an individual project basis.

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Miami is Fast Becoming a US Crypto Trendsetter

Florida staked its claim as a significant name in crypto as two pizzas delivered by Papa John’s in Jacksonville once cost the crypto equivalent of $65 million in today’s money, and now with Miami staking its claim as Bitcoin capital of the US, the dream lives on.

Miami is on a charge and has seen a surge of blockchain and crypto conferences setting up their annual venues there over the years. It’s unsurprising, given that there’s also a history there too, as it was not only the home of the first North American Bitcoin Conference but also witnessed the birth of Vitalik Buterin’s Ethereum experiment.

This year’s North American Bitcoin Conference heralded in even more startups, some 30 in number, raising millions, and now gives way to the next conference in the queue, Blockchain Shift to be held in late October bringing IBM, Tesla, KPMG, Bloomberg into its orbit. It promises to be another extravaganza with late-night dancing and yacht parties scheduled, living up to the current festival mode employed by crypto conference organizers.

Miami started the crypto ATM revolution, with machine provider BitStop out of Palmetto Bay now providing services for client all over the state and in California with a network of 50 transaction points.

One of Florida’s movers and shakers, George Levy, award-winning Lecturer and Senior Instructor on the blockchain, had a hand in starting Miami’s Blockchain Institute of Technology (BIT), an online training academy which teaches people more about cryptocurrency and its technological foundations. Levy now has students in 166 countries around the globe and follows up his online training with personal appearances in many of those. Lately, he’s taken the leap to South America, where Bitcoin raised early interest. He now works alongside the engineering department at the University of Curaçao.

“We’re seeing innovation coming out of Latin America, as well strong developers based in Argentina,” he says, adding that, “The fact that I’m here in Miami gives me a very close spot to be able to engage that. It’s a great hub.”

South Americans have viewed cryptocurrency as an escape from financial oppression for years, as exemplified by Bitcoin’s huge following in Venezuela where the fiat economy is a total burnout. Because of its Latin American connection, Miami has a renewed spark of life as a potential crypto hub for South America as a result of political unrest there, geographic proximity and Spanish speaking population.

With such a vibrant cryptocurrency ecosystem comes regulatory concerns, one of the motivations by State government’s June decision to appoint a “Cryptocurrency Chief” to oversee the industry, according to Florida’s chief financial officer Jimmy Patronis, an “…active, comprehensive and balanced approach” providing an “appropriate level of scrutiny for emerging digital asset technologies.”

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Coinbase Lists Its First Ethereum ERC20 Token, 0x

Coinbase, the biggest cryptocurrency exchange headquartered in the United States, has listed its first Ethereum ERC20 token. The lucky ERC20 token is 0x, the #25 crypto on CoinMarketCap with a market cap of USD 414 million as of this writing on 12 October 2018. This opens up the door for many more Ethereum ERC20 tokens to be listed on Coinbase.

Getting listed on Coinbase is major news for any crypto since it makes them easily available throughout the United States as Coinbase is the go-to place to buy crypto in the country. This increases demand and price for any crypto that gets listed on Coinbase. It has been announced a while ago that 0x would likely be added to Coinbase, and 0x began to rally in the middle of September from USD 0.51 to USD 0.77 today, a 50% rally. The rally became more aggressive in the past couple of days due to Coinbase finally listing 0x. 0x is available for fiat to crypto trading on Coinbase Pro, and will soon be rolled out across all Coinbase platforms.

0x is the 6th crypto to be listed on Coinbase, the others being Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, and Ethereum Classic. Coinbase announced near the beginning of October that it was opening a new application process, and was planning on adding every possible crypto to its exchange, eventually becoming like Binance which has hundreds of cryptos available for trading. 0x is just the first of many cryptos that will likely be added to Coinbase, and as seen with 0x, getting added to Coinbase has a very positive impact on a crypto’s market price. Therefore, if Coinbase truly ends up listing all major cryptos, it could have a significant impact on the overall crypto market.

ERC20 is a protocol to make a token using the Ethereum blockchain, which is essentially a cryptocurrency that uses the Ethereum blockchain to secure itself. Numerous major cryptos are Ethereum ERC20 tokens, like Binance Coin, Maker DAO, OmiseGO, Aeternity, Basic Attention Token, Golem, Holo, Augur, Status, Populous, Waltonchain, and Chainlink. These are just the ERC20 tokens that have market caps in excess of USD 100 million, there are many more besides this with lower market caps that are still quite popular.

Now that Coinbase has added 0x, it would be quite easy to add any other ERC20 token since they use the same backbone technology, and considering Coinbase’s new policy to add every worthy crypto, it is likely that many more ERC20 tokens will be added to Coinbase in the coming months.

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Joint Investigation finds SEC Damaging to US Blockchain Startups

An investigation conducted by Yahoo Finance and Decrypt Media has found that the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has been “putting blockchain startups at risk” with an expanded crackdown on initial coin offerings (ICOs).

Startups are suffering

In the report from Decrypt Media on 10 October, the authors describe the SEC as “exerting pressure” on companies that it issued subpoenas to earlier in 2018 and furthermore, has subpoenaed more, apparently targeting those who failed to sell their tokens “exclusively to accredited investors”.

As a result, companies have been refunding investors and paying fines, many other startups have struggled to meet the requirements of the SEC, describing themselves as being “left in the dark” on how to satisfy the regulatory watchdog.

The battle to classify cryptocurrencies in the US has been an ongoing and tremendously tricky one for those with desires to start a blockchain or cryptocurrency enterprise, and for those who wish to see the industry flourish in the States.

Recent events

Earlier this year, the SEC stood firm with its decision to classify digital tokens issued via an ICO as securities, a decision that John McAfee spoke out against. Though this classification does not apply to Bitcoin or Ethereum, issuing a token sale in the US is considered arduous if not almost impossible for startups.

As a result, several private entities and organizations in the United States have formed, banded together and begun tackling this notion alongside governmental bodies; both the Chamber of Commerce and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CTFC) have called for a sound regulatory environment, one in which blockchain projects can at least be tested in a sandbox similar to that of the United Kingdom.

In July, the Chamber of Digital Commerce (CDC) released a publication that offers itself as a guideline on ‘Understanding Digital Tokens’, written for the benefit and education of policymakers and practitioners. The paper outlines distinct attributes for various types of tokens, placing the blanket token classification of Securities under question.

Regulatory uncertainty

Industry figures also wrote a letter to the SEC outlining their position on the “intrusive” nature of SEC regulations. The letter claims that the securities classification is causing domestic companies to leave the US in search of greener, more accommodating pastures.

The Blockchain Association was also recently formed to lobby the American government and push for regulatory clarity as well as define best-interests for both the crypto or blockchain industry and the American economy.

According to the report, firms claim that they are unable to communicate with other firms and work out how to handle the matter; and according to a high-profile securities attorney, are supposedly “holding their breath” awaiting new rules from the SEC, but are in no way confident that they will be providing any.


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North America: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup, 5th to 11th October 2018

North America

Welcome to our weekly roundup of all important blockchain and cryptocurrency news from around the world. Follow the latest developments in the cryptocurrency space continent by continent, country by country.


Mastercard patents multi crypto blockchain: US financial services giant Mastercard has recently won rights to a blockchain partitioning method that enables it to store different cryptocurrencies on a single blockchain ecosystem. 

Mastercard’s patent describes subnets, blockchain division that manages each format independently. Each block created would be hashed with a code that would be applied to all transactions, creating a blockchain that supports different, previously incompatible crypto chains with far fewer resource requirements.

US customs claim crypto-fiat conversions traceable: In a hearing in the US Senate, a US customs official detailed that it is possible to trace fiat-crypto and vice versa transactions using investigative methods.

The official said further that through this, they are “able to disrupt the criminals and dismantle the [transnational criminal organizations]”. He further claimed that there has been a degree of success in tracing drug sales down to the criminals involved.

5 top universities follow Yale by making crypto investments: MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth and UNC have made investments into cryptocurrencies following Yale’s lead. The latter made investments from its endowment fund in Paradigm and Andreessen Horowitz, two crypto funds.

With Yale’s choices copied by many universities and institutional investors, it is expected that other universities across the United States will follow suit and invest in crypto.

1Broker allowed to return user funds: 1Broker exchange has recently opened up again, but in a limited capacity, allowing users to withdraw their funds.

The popular crypto exchange came into the view of US officials after an undercover FBI agent was able to acquire Bitcoin with no KYC or AML checks.

The exchange was subsequently shut down on 27 September, through FBI and SEC coordination. Some 50,000 users were left hanging as they could not withdraw their funds.

SEC files subpoena against alleged “pump and dump” ICO: According to the SEC, a subpoena was filed on 5 October at a District Court in California against Saint James Holdings and Investment Company. A penny stock firm Cherubim was committing USD 100 million to launch an ICO for the St James Trust when the order was made. 

ICOs are currently banned in the United States.

Giant inflatable rat with Bitcoin graffiti placed in front of Federal Reserve Branch on Wall Street: In a gutsy prank, ex-hedge fund manager Nelson Siers has placed an inflatable rat character with Bitcoin graffiti in front of the Federal Reserve Branch building located on Wall Street, New York.

The rat will remain there for a few days before it is finally taken down. The move mocks the Federal Reserve Bank, one of the most powerful national banks in the world with assets up to USD 5 trillion back in 2017. It is the Goliath of the fiat world and the rat was placed to mock its existence and promote cryptocurrencies.

The bank is sometimes blamed for the financial crisis of 2008, thought to be a stimulant for the creation of Bitcoin, the world’s first cryptocurrency.


QuadrigaCX continues to face Canadian bank’s bullying: QuadrigaCX, the largest Canadian crypto exchange, saw its USD 28 million funds being frozen by Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in JulyThe battle continues on in the Ontario Supreme Court of Justice, with CIBC asking the court to take control of the funds and decide the real beneficiary of the money. 

QuadrigaCX is asking the court to unfreeze its funds as it is legal since it has already credited its customers with Quadriga Bucks. The unexplained freezing of funds shows a friction between the traditional banking and commerce and the rapidly emerging blockchain sector in a tussle to either retain control or disrupt the market.


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South America: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup, 5th to 11th October 2018

South America

Welcome to our weekly roundup of all important blockchain and cryptocurrency news from around the world. Follow the latest developments in the cryptocurrency space continent by continent, country by country.


Iranian authority declares Brazil country most prone to Coinhive cyber attacks: The Iranian Cybersecurity Authority (CERTCC) has declared that Brazil is the top country among reported attacks involving the CoinHive software.

According to the agency, more than 81,000 attacks were reported by Coinhive in 2017 alone. India came in second with 29,000 followed by Indonesia and Iran itself. This data is not yet endorsed by any other organization.

Coinhive itself is a mining software for Monero cryptocurrency. It has an API that allows you to allocated CPU and other computing resources to mine Monero’s XMR cryptocurrency.

Hackers usually break into a computer to try and install the software in it, remotely mining XMR without the owner’s knowledge. It also comes up bundled with other software packs in some cases.

Blockchain institutions expanding operations: Brazilian blockchain academy and other blockchain institutions are expanding their learning operations across the country and are now increasingly partnering with universities.

Recently, the academy partnered with leading blockchain initiatives like Consensys and expanded to Portugal. In addition, University of Sao Paulo is establishing a postgraduate course in Law and Information Technology which addresses Bitcoin and the decentralized economy. Other institutions like Faculdade Getúlio Vargas (FGV) have signed partnerships with Ripple to expand academic and institutional knowledge of blockchain technology.

New federal deputy of Sao Paulo is pro-crypto: Newly-elected Federal Deputy of State of Sao Paulo Eduardo Bolsonaro has declared that he is in favor of cryptocurrencies and even recorded a video on the subject.

Son of presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro, Bolsonaro Jr is expected to bring a positive change in his state regarding cryptocurrencies and may also be able to influence his father on this matter if he is elected president. The move comes after an increasing number of Brazilian MPs and other members of government have come forward and declared themselves pro-cryptocurrency advocates.


Crypto ATMs increasing to help people combat inflation: Cryptocurrencies are becoming increasingly popular in Argentina as a means to combat rampant currency devaluation and inflation in the country. Keeping this in mind, two Bitcoin ATM companies, Athena Bitcoin and Odyssey Group, have decided to unveil more than 30 new ATMs in the country as early as the end of 2019.

Cryptocurrencies are set to become more and more popular with countries around the world where inflation is becoming a persistent problem. Argentina has been suffering from inflationary problems a while now as the peso needs constant monetary injections from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to stay afloat. Currency devaluations present a golden opportunity for popular cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin to excel as they don’t have inherent inflationary measures.


New project tabled in Parliament for blockchain adoption: The Chilean lower house of parliament has been presented with a new project regarding blockchain adoption in the country, according to local media outlet Fortin Mapocho.

The resolution was created back in August but wasn’t presented in front of parliament until 5 October. The bill aims to implement blockchain technology in different public offices across the country. The project is currently being endorsed by two MPs Miguel Angel Calisto and Giorgio Jackson. They claim to have the support of eight other MPs as well.


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5 Top Unis Follow Yale Down Crypto Investment Path

Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University, Dartmouth College, and the University of North Carolina (UNC), have all made investments from their endowments into at least one crypto fund. These are some of the highest caliber universities in the United States, all with endowments in excess of USD 1 billion, and can be considered institutional investors. These five universities follow the lead of Yale University, which invested some of its USD 30 billion endowment in two crypto funds, Paradigm and Andreessen Horowitz.

It was reported that David Swensen runs Yale’s USD 30 billion endowment, whose choices are copied by institutional investors worldwide. That appears completely true, with the sudden investment of five other major United States universities into crypto. Harvard University has the biggest endowment in the United States at USD 36 billion. MIT has an endowment of USD 15 billion, Stanford University USD 25 billion and UNC USD 3 billion.

These endowments represent a significant amount of money relative to the total crypto market cap of USD 203 billion as of 11 October 2018. Of course, only a small fraction of these endowments have been invested into crypto but if successful then more will likely be invested. Now that these academic heavyweights have invested into crypto, it is likely that other endowments across the United States will soon diversify into crypto, as well as other institutional investors.

The entrance of major universities into crypto investment is one of the first positive confirmations that institutional investors are dipping their toes into the crypto space. Institutional investment has been hyped as the likely cause of the next big crypto rally. The currently low crypto prices, with Bitcoin sitting near USD 6,000, represents an opportunity for institutional investors to buy in and get the most bang for their buck.

Jon Victor, the journalist who originally broke this news, says, “A move by endowments into funds that will directly bet on cryptocurrencies signals a major shift in investor sentiment toward the asset class, in the same way that institutions over the past decade became more willing to invest in private tech companies. Backing from such closely watched institutions could help validate cryptocurrencies, which are still considered too risky by many institutional investors.”


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Venezuelan Government Mandates Passport Fees Be Paid in Petro

The Venezuelan government is pushing forward its national cryptocurrency Petro at full speed and has now announced that its passport fees can only by paid through it. The announcement was made by Vice President Delcy Rodriguez in a press conference earlier this week despite consistent operational issues in the working of Petro that are dogging its development and mass adoption.

Rodriguez claimed that the enforcement will take place before the official launch of the cryptocurrency by the government which is slated for November. The cost of each passport application is also being floated around by the government with a new passport expected to cost 2 Petros and an extension expected to cost 1 Petro. Venezuelans living abroad will have to pay in USD for passport services including USD 200 for a new passport and USD 100 for an extension, according to Rodriguez.

Even setting aside Petro’s troubles, the cost of each passport is still significant as the minimum monthly wage is 25% of the cost of the passport fee in Petro according to the currency exchange rate. The Venezuelan government is eager to attract foreign capital in Petro and enforce its mass adoption but even then it will have to face problems because in its current status, Petro cannot even be transferred from one person’s wallet to another.

In addition to the passport fee rules, the Vice President also announced the creation of a new migration police force to enforce migration policies. Petro payments for passports appear to reflect the government’s attempt to enforce its strict migration policy and promote the national cryptocurrency simultaneously. However, the token’s developers need to solve critical issues with the currency before any of these decisions can be enforced.


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Ripple’s Chris Larsen First Crypto Personality on Forbes 400 Rich List

Chris Larsen, co-founder of Ripple, is the first person from the cryptocurrency space to be on the Forbes 400 list. He is at the very bottom of the list, ranked #383 in a tie with 18 other billionaires.

The Forbes 400 is a list of the 400 richest people in America, a list so exclusive that a third of billionaires in the United States were not wealthy enough to make the list. The Ripple token, XRP, is the third-ranked cryptocurrency by market capitalization at this time with a market cap of USD 20 billion.

Larsen owns XRP 5.19 billion, and his place on the list has been fluctuating wildly due to changes in XRP’s price. As of this writing on 8 October 2018, five days since the Forbes 400 was compiled, XRP has gone up to USD 0.50, which would mean Larsen has USD 2.6 billion and is actually ranked #316. Earlier in 2018, when XRP hit its all-time record of USD 3.75, Larsen had USD 19.46 billion, which would have put him at #25 on the Forbes 400, practically tied with SpaceX and Tesla Founder Elon Musk.

That being said, Larsen couldn’t cash out all of his XRP at once even if he wanted to, which makes his position on the list somewhat controversial. As seen with Ripple’s other co-founder Jed McCaleb, co-founders have restrictions in selling off their holdings since sudden and large liquidations would damage the Ripple ecosystem.

Notably absent from the list is Satoshi Nakamoto, since his identity is unknown, and there is no way to know if he is even in the United States. Some estimates say Satoshi mined BTC 1 million, which are still clearly sitting in wallets believed to be his, which would give him a net worth of USD 6.7 billion as of 8 October, which would put him at #78 on the Forbes 400. During the rally to USD 20,000, Satoshi’s Bitcoin was worth as much as USD 20 billion briefly, which would put him at #23, richer than Elon Musk.

At the very top of the Forbes 400 is Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, who has an all-time record USD 160 billion. This is more than the entire Bitcoin market cap, which is USD 115 billion. Jeff Bezos broke Bill Gates’ 24-year streak at the top of the Forbes 400.


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Blockchain Technology in Protecting Children’s Rights

Humanitarian Blockchain

a series

   Part 2: Blockchain Technology in Protecting Children’s Rights

Welcome to the second instalment of the Bitcoin News Humanitarian Blockchain Series. According to Human Rights Watch, over 70 million children around the world work in hazardous conditions in agriculture, mining, domestic labor and other sectors.  We look at how blockchain is impacting upon these statistics to make the world a safer place for children.

A project is set to be launched this year, using blockchain, in order to provide manufacturers of devices such as iPhones genuine information that guarantees that the cobalt in their lithium-ion batteries is not mined by children. The tracking of cobalt in the Congo is an enormous problem due to numerous informal mining sites, many of them being worked by children. The Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), devastated by a protracted war which has caused the death of 5.4 million people, is listed as the world’s poorest nation.

The US Department of Labor identifies 148 different consumer goods produced by child or forced labor around the world including beef, sugar, bricks, coffee and other products originating from 76 countries. With gold at the top of this consumer list, the report cites 21 countries in which “children help mine gold, climbing into unstable shafts, carrying and crushing heavy loads of ore, and often using toxic mercury to process the gold”.

Blockchain will offer much-increased supply chain transparency until a solution to finding an alternative source to cobalt can be found by phone companies and car manufacturers. Amnesty International is currently exploring the possibility of implementing blockchain technology to address the problem of child labor by enabling consumers to register a specific mine to make their purchase. Unregistered illegal mines would, therefore, be easily identifiable through blockchain.

This year, UNICEF published a website enabling crypto mining through donors’ computer power called “The Hope Page”. It mined Monero through Coinhive, a crypto-mining service. This was the second time that UNICEF had used cryptocurrency to fund its overseas projects. In February, it launched a similar program to support children in Syria, affected by the lengthy civil war in that country, using donors’ computers to mine Ether.

The donated funds went to UNICEF Australia’s current mission in Bangladesh for the Rohingya crisis, providing humanitarian relief for both children and their mothers, ensuring that they receive life-saving supplies such as safe drinking water, food, and vaccines.

Director of UNICEF France, Sébastien Lyon, commented on its current focus on using blockchain technology and accepting cryptocurrency donations to implement some of its projects around the world to support children’s well- being:

“Cryptocurrency and blockchain technology used for charitable purposes offers a new opportunity to appeal to the generosity of the public and continue to develop our operations with children in the countries of intervention.”

This year, the Global Bank raised USD 73 million for the two-year bond called “bondi”, due to the involvement of one of Australia’s “Big 4” banks. The funds were raised via the Global Bank’s funding arm, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The target was originally between USD 50 million and USD 100 million, aimed at supporting a range of sustainability projects in developing countries around the globe.

One of the World Bank’s main priorities is that children have access to health care, education, water and sanitation, and energy. Recent projects funded by the World Bank include improving agricultural research in Afghanistan, fighting hunger in Afghan villages, and improving infrastructure in the Palestine territories.

In many parts of the world, conditions for children are appalling, often requiring that they work for long hours in dangerous locations with little pay. In the jewelry retail sector, children working at source have often been injured and killed when working in small-scale gold or diamond mining pits.

This industry is clearly one that would benefit from blockchain in terms of addressing children’s vulnerability as they are forced to work for disreputable employers with little regard for the health or safety of their often under-aged workers. For the customer at point-of-sale, it is currently very difficult to know exactly the origins of the gold or diamonds in an item of jewelry, or whether it has been tainted by human rights abuses involving children. With more consumers beginning to demand responsible sourcing, retailers now have a supply chain solution at their fingertips by utilizing DLT. Retailers are able to take the emerging technology path and change their ways of conducting business, putting pressure on those at source to extract minerals using a much-improved code of ethics.

The missing element is education, and the dissemination of information, which are both badly needed to encourage industry to adopt this vital tool to change children’s lives and protect children’s rights around the globe.


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