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Wikimedia Foundation Partners with Bitpay to Expand Crypto Payments

Wikimedia Foundation Partners with Bitpay to Expand Crypto Payments

The American non-profit and charitable organization behind Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, has partnered with BitPay, a leading company providing Bitcoin payment processing services for merchants.

The partnership will allow the foundation, which has already provided a Bitcoin donations capability to the multilingual, web-based, free encyclopedia, to now add BCH donations through BitPay. BitPay’s chief commercial officer, Sonny Singh, who predicted at the end of last year that a USD 15,000 to USD 20,000 Bitcoin price would be a feasible outcome by the end of 2019, commented on the new partnership:

“Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash are one of the cheapest payment options available so more money goes to charity rather than paying fees. Wikimedia does so much good around the world that it is a privilege to help them raise money.”

Singh was quick to point out that altcoins would be less fortunate than Bitcoin and would “never come back”, and the flagship cryptocurrency’s return to fortune would be driven by large company investment, some of which is already planned.

BitPay’s success has been notable in the industry with over USD 1 billion in transactions over the course of 2018 with record high revenues from transfer fees. Pats Pena, Director of Payments and Operations at Wikimedia Foundation commented on the new step:

“Our donors have shown an increased interest for different cryptocurrencies, so accepting Bitcoin Cash was a natural next step. We accept donations globally, and we strive to provide a large variety of donation options. It’s very important that we can get international donations processed in ways that are efficient and cost-effective.”

 

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Humanitarian Support Grows With More Charities Accepting Crypto Other Than Bitcoin

charities, cryptocurrency

It’s generally a little-known fact to those outside of the virtual currency arena that Bitcoin is not all about making large profits, but that the hallmark cryptocurrency, along with many others, is frequently used to forward humanitarian ideals through a wide range of charities around the globe.

BitcoinNews has followed many of these charities over the past year. Whether it be the WFP, distributing cryptocurrency-based food vouchers to more than 100,000 Syrian refugees living in Jordan, or the donation of funds through UNICEF in Bangladesh for the Rohingya crisis to provide humanitarian relief for both children and mothers, wherever you look around the world, cryptocurrency is increasingly being sought out by charitable agencies and NGOs as a way of getting funds to where they should go.

The speed of delivery of Bitcoin and Ethereum has offered a real plus when it comes to donations, and particularly the transparency of the blockchain which has managed to cut through many a donor’s predispositions not give to charity due to past criminal activity or out and out fraud.

One particular charity, little publicized, is the Water Project which now accepts a variety of cryptocurrencies apart from Bitcoin to support its projects and now accepts Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, or Litecoin. The project’s simple aim is to ensure the inhabitants of sub-Saharan Africa have access to clean, disease-free water.

Recently, there’s been a significant increase in charity events related to crypto. Some of these have joined a growing establishment of charities accepting Bitcoin donations such as Electronic Frontier Foundation, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, WikiLeaks, Antiwar.com, Code to Inspire, Bitgive and Epic Change.

Another very worthwhile project is the health project Watsi which uses cryptocurrency and blockchain tech for community healthcare crowdfunding. This unique project allows donors to choose recipients and meet them online and discuss their needs.

Even cryptocurrency exchanges and ICOs are involved; beyond Coinbase’s much-publicized Xmas giveaway and its “Give Crypto” project last year, blockchain-based UTRUST payment platform and AidCoin also combined forces last year to enable charitable donations across the world in 23 different cryptocurrencies.

Charitable donations through a range of different cryptocurrencies have never been so prevalent with even the big names realizing that the future of donations is rapidly going digital. With the Red Cross and UNICEF now firmly on board, its no longer just Bitcoin showing the way.

 

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“AirdropVenezuela” Recruits Steve Hank as Ally in Plan for Poverty-Stricken Nation

Hyperinflation expert Steve Hanke has teamed up with a Mexico City-based blockchain powered currency platform in order to get financial aid to Venezuelans.

Hanke, also a professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University, and AirTM, will work together on project “AirdropVenezuela”, which hopes to raise cryptocurrency donations up to USD1 million. Once raised, the funds will then be released to 100,000 Venezuelans via the AirTM platform.

This #GivingTuesday, AirTM launches Airdrop Venezuela – a campaign to raise USD $1MM for 100,000 ID-verified Venezuelans. 100% of the proceeds will go directly towards recipients’ wallets.

Learn how you can contribute:

https://t.co/MIezPXos8J pic.twitter.com/Fuye8LZaCV

— Airtm Inc (@AirtmInc) November 27, 2018

The annualized inflation rate hit a record high of 117,681% this month as Venezuela’s ongoing economic downturn continues to render the country’s currency, the bolivar, almost worthless. President Maduro continues to refuse to peg the bolivar to the US dollar, which has been cited as a possible solution, while the alternative cryptocurrency Petro is rarely available and little used. Also, President Trump signed an executive order in March 2018 which particularly targets Petro for sanctions. Along with Trump, many US lawmakers have also denounced the currency and passed bills to restrict its use.

Hank outlined his plains for an airdrop solution: “We provide in effect a clearinghouse that allows for the exchange of bolivars for dollars and vice versa… This is also much superior to distributing physical cash because you don’t have to run the risk of driving your armored truck into the country.”

Not only are armored cash-delivery vehicles at risk of hijacking, but most stores are empty of provisions due to the worthlessness of the Bolivar. Free trading is highly government controlled and the government shuns private foreign exchange dealing.

Hanke maintains that a sum of USD 1 million would open up the doors to Venezuela, prompting nationals to begin to use the US dollar for everyday transactions, thus helping to re-stabilize the struggling economy.

 

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Bitcoin’s Mr. Big, Michael Novogratz Donates to Princeton Students

Bitcoin's Mr Big, Michael Novogratz, Donates to Princeton Students

Mike Novogratz, ex-hedge fund manager and Bitcoin Billionaire has made a donation to students at the prestigious US university Princeton.

Novogratz is a well-known Bitcoin pundit and CEO of Galaxy Digital Holdings Ltd, a merchant banking institution dedicated to the digital assets and blockchain technology sector. Better known for his bullish predictions, last year he suggested that the crypto market cap was en-route towards a 20 trillion-dollar evaluation.

The donation – an undisclosed amount – is aimed at supporting Princeton’s “Novogratz Bridge Year Program” which gives students a gap year opportunity to work in Bolivia, China, India, Indonesia, or Senegal. Princeton University’s web page outlines the program’s aims:

“In addition to supporting community-based initiatives at each program site, Bridge Year aims to provide participants with a greater international perspective and intercultural skills, an opportunity for personal growth and reflection, and a deeper appreciation of service in both a local and international context.”

Both Michael Novogratz and his wife, Sukey Cáceres are both alumni of Princeton University and were happy to donate to their old alma mater. Novogratz sees the programme as essential leadership training, commenting that it offers “abundant opportunities for introspection and personal growth. Students return from it with a real sense of purpose, and an interest in being of service to their communities, and to the world.”

Novogratz suggested that he was proud to donate what he referred to as the couple’s 2017 “crypto winnings,” commenting that the opportunity for students to experience another culture was a way of building bridges, not walls; comments made in clear reference to US President Trump’s measures to protect the US border with Mexico.

Princeton’s President, Christopher L Eisgruber responded to the donation by commenting that  “extraordinary gift will enable generations of Princetonians to embark on a path of global citizenship as Bridge Year scholars.”

US Ivy League Universities have been in the crypto news over the past year with both Columbia and Stanford opening blockchain research centers in 2018, hot on the trails of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Add to these, Miami University in Ohio, Montclair State University, and the University of Pennsylvania, amongst others and the direction of blockchain education in the US is very clear; there is no way but up.

 

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UK Investor Who Lost a Million Still Has Faith in Bitcoin

UK Investor Who Lost a Million Still Has Faith in Bitcoin

It’s a familiar story, but it still hurts for those who have had the same experience as investor Peter McCormack who lost $1 million in the recent bear market. But he has faith.

McCormack claims that he got himself too “caught up in the hype’ during the buoyant and heady cryptocurrency market in 2017. The ex-London advertising agency manager decided that after losing his job in 2016 he’d try investing GBP 5000 (USD 6,400) in Bitcoin.

By the spring of 2017 his modest BTC investment with some extra purchases swelled to $300,000 and like many other investors at this time decided that he was in for the long ride. What happened next in the market is history, of course.

By the end of the year, his portfolio was worth GBP 1.2 million but crashed in January of 2018 wiping out his investments, having traveled and splurged money on dining out, travel, and extravagant family gifts, meanwhile dipping into his BTC throughout 2017.

“I wish I had taken everything out before the bubble burst, I have earned money in the past through hard work and enjoyed it more,” he reflected, adding “Much of my spending was quite frivolous.”

Today McCormack still podcasts and is surprisingly upbeat about Bitcoin, but warns others to be more careful with their money than he was. To him, cryptocurrency remains a “force for good” despite his up and down relationship with the market, particularly, in some undeveloped or war-torn countries where bitcoin and other digital currencies are empowering communities and minorities, he argues.

 

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Anniversary Report: Bitcoin 10 Years on in Venezuela, South America

venezuela, bitcoin, cryptocurrency

In a Bitcoin News exclusive with the founder of crypto-backed non-profit Bitcoin Venezuela, Randy Brito shared how Bitcoin has evolved over the last decade in South America to become an increasingly popular tool for freelance workers to sell their services on the global market in the absence of access to payment systems such as PayPal. Brito also discussed his own humanitarian work done to promote Bitcoin adoption in Venezuela, the trajectory of Bitcoin in the next 10 years, and why he would like to see developers work on real use cases for cryptocurrency rather than on cryptokitties. 

Bitcoin’s 10-Year Journey

After researching Bitcoin in Venezuela since 2011, Brito has seen a significant shift in the number of local users and people even aware of Bitcoin. Back then, he jokes, there were only 10 people talking about it in the country and they were not even trading. In 2012, a small number of traders emerged with some grouped on the Colombian border, alongside Bitcoin mining which is gaining a strong following as well.

”It took 2 or 3 years more in 2014, 2015 for regular people to see how it could be used in Venezuela where electricity prices are very low. The first 5 or 6 years of Bitcoin’s existence in Venezuela was mostly unknown- only people with very technical knowledge or really inside the scene from the beginning were actually using Bitcoin for something,” Brito told Bitcoin News.

After 2015, the cryptocurrency was more common to see around, he said, with a growing movement surrounding it because of how it was utilized in relation to the riots in this period. Brito’s own non-profit Bitcoin Venezuela used cryptocurrency at this time to send food and medicine to protesters and street rioters. ”2015 was when most people started learning about it, after one year or so of using it to help people in the streets and even assist others leaving the country,” he shared.

Venezuelans line up at the Bitcoin Venezuela soup kitchen

A queue at Bitcoin Venezuala’s soup kitchen

Many South American countries are without access to major online payment systems such as PayPal and Venmo, so one of the primary use cases for Bitcoin has been as a way to receive international payments, with freelancers and entrepreneurs seeing an opportunity to develop their own business models around cryptocurrency acceptance.

”Argentina, for example, is known for having professional tech freelancers working in design and consultancy. Most of them used to work receiving international wire transfers or through Western Union but, there were capital controls imposed on foreign exchanges for a couple of years, meaning Bitcoin became an increasingly popular option to receive payments.”

In Venezuela, the foreign exchange controls which are meant to prop up the local Boliver currency have been running for not 2 or 3, but 14 years.

In other South American countries such as Bolivia and Chile, they also have restricted access to online payment systems as providers such as PayPal do not accept local documentation as a means of verifying the identity of the account holder. Bitcoin is being used more regularly in the region because of this limitation of financial services that operate in the continent.

A lack of real Bitcoin users

In Venezuela, Brito says, Bitcoin is not actually being used as a medium for exchange on the street. ”Even if you have smartphone and BTC wallet and try to pay for something, it’s almost impossible. Even places that say they accept cryptocurrency there is usually someone there like the owner of the store who needs to be there to accept it personally.”

Citing a report from Russia Today, he says journalists went to popular food chains in Venezuela that advertise to accept Dash but when they got there and asked to pay with the cryptocurrency, the employees said it was not possible because the owner was not there.

Brito partly attributes the lack of Bitcoin-accepting merchants to government persecution against anyone accepting currency that is not the local Bolivar: ”Even though for the last few months you are allowed to accept any other foreign currency as payment, you are obligated to do it at the exchange rate they impose, something not beneficial for the store. If they take dollars, for example, at the imposed rates they will lose money.”

Another problem for adoption is that people need smartphones, realistically running on the latest software update which most Bitcoin wallets require for security purposes. And if you are spotted with a USD200, USD300 phone, Brito says you are putting yourself at risk of mugging or even being killed on the streets of Venezuela.

Data released by the country’s national telecom providers showed that there are only 11.9 million devices in Venezuela, a country with a population of 30 million people. Currency controls mean this number is dropping even further because no one is importing smartphones into the country to sell, meaning the ones in circulation are often unbranded or not up to date. ”Most of them run on old, modified versions of Android designed for Chinese models, copies of other brands,” Brito says, not devices capable of supporting secure cryptocurrency wallets.

After a lot of hard work collaborators have completed the creation of the two water wells we’ve donated to a soup kitchen & an elderly center in #Venezuela. Kids & old ppl now have permanent access to water. Thanks!

Now let’s get em food!

DM if you’d like to help us help others pic.twitter.com/BkTlcAQixJ

— Bitcoin Venezuela ⚡ (@btcven) November 7, 2018

 

The Next Decade for Bitcoin

When will Venezuela even hit the bottom on security, connection, smartphones? Right now, some cities are completely disconnected from any communication system, some going without access to calls, SMS, text, 3G or even cable internet, staying weeks like this without connection to anywhere outside the city.

”If you get into that situation, there is no way you can pay with Bitcoin. What’s happening now is that cables, antennas, and wires are getting stolen by people who want to sell the copper of the cables. This is happing more regularly; it’s pretty common to see people getting beaten after getting caught stealing cables, even beaten to death by people angry that they are disconnecting them from the rest of the world. It’s happening more regularly, even daily.”

Brito is working on a mesh network of devices that would be affordable for Venezuelan citizens, with the software able to be installed in repurposed devices already existing in the country. Antennas or routers already in homes but lack connection to services such as the internet, or physical devices with restricted services could be repurposed and have the new software downloaded that would allow them to connect to each other and communicate via encrypted text messages, as well as facilitate Bitcoin transactions.

”They don’t need any other connection if the device is running the mesh software; they can connect and can transmit both messages and Bitcoin. Any device can have the software installed and is capable of connecting to others up to 5 km away, but with bigger, repurposed antennas that are basically abandoned because of the lack of service, they can be repurposed to make the range longer.”

Brito’s idea is the number of devices running will be so many, that they will be able to connect to each other in small towns and cities, while the big ones can be connected to one another via radio which can go up to 20 km distance: ”You will be able to deploy an alternative to the internet and other communication systems, capable of broadcasting Bitcoin transactions approved on the network even if there is no internet connection at all.”

Bigger devices will work basically as small computers, keeping connected and up to date with the Bitcoin blockchain through satellite. People inside the mesh will be able to see if transactions have been added to the network and approved.

Brito has not been to Venezuela since 2008 and knows he would probably get arrested if he did. He expects the government to try and restrict his mesh network concept, even as it tries to scale back internet use.

”You have to be careful about using, say a USD 1,000 dollar antenna to strengthen the network not only because it will likely get stolen, but people can also track it and get to your house, small affordable DIY devices are much more practical. They are more difficult to shut down or crack down on. Hopefully, there will be so many devices communicating with each other they will be impossible to shut down.”

Money, Brito notes, is a monopoly of the state in every country. Bitcoin takes that power out of the government and gives it to anyone capable of running a node. ”We are basically trying to achieve the same. Just like a Bitcoin node, you will be a node inside a mesh,” he says.

a Turpial 🐦 (ESP32 LoRa) could connect to another one to join the mesh up to 3km-4km distance (~1.8 miles) in the open. You could switch antennas

A phone could only make it up to ~50m (~0.031 miles)

We’ll be making tests in the coming days, stay tuned!https://t.co/gKr1gJxMHu pic.twitter.com/8O7sMPO8Yf

— Bitcoin Venezuela ⚡ (@btcven) December 28, 2018

 

Hopes for 2019

Next year, Brito says he would like to see more people transacting in Bitcoin with each other in Venezuela, but that opportunity is not yet in the hands of the local people.

”If developers actually want to see adoption they should put an effort into making the wallets more accessible to those not part of the first world, those that don’t have access to smartphones at all. I would like to see developers pay more attention to what is actually needed in some places not things like cryptokitties which only end up with one thousand users globally while we have people that are not even capable of transacting or communicating with families in other countries.”

Brito concluded by sharing hopes that more people in the Bitcoin industry will focus on humanitarian efforts: ”I would like to see real use cases for actually helping people, making their lives better. I do think there are ways to do it and it’s not that costly. Bitcoin is capable of working in the worst of places, and I would like to see the resilience of it and how it can circumvent all kinds of censorship.”

To learn more about Bitcoin Venezuela or to make a donation, visit the website or follow them on Twitter.

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12 Days of Coinbase: What You Missed and What You Didn’t

12 Days of Coinbase: What You Missed and What You Didn't

December 21st marked the final episode of ’12 days of Coinbase giveaway‘. While some of the offers from the popular cryptocurrency exchange embodied the giving holiday spirit, others fell a little flat.

The highlights

There was a charitable undercurrent running through the giveaway, with Day 2 dedicated to a USD 10,000 donation in Zcash (ZEC) to impoverished families in Venezuela. As Bitcoin News previously reported, the South American country is struggling to handle major hyperinflation that has left many families unable to afford basic amenities. An increasing number of citizens are turning to cryptocurrencies as a store of value and a way to make charitable contributions.

Another USD 10,000 donation was made in Bitcoin (BTC) to support a project developing a basic income scheme for 150 Syrian refugees in Greece who are currently without access to the mainstream financial system.

Coinbase hit the mark with both days, using the event as a great way to draw attention to humanitarian efforts utilizing cryptocurrency, specifically through GiveCrypto.com.

Those ‘exclusive’ offers

Days 9 and 10 offered privileges for the more ‘exclusive’ Coinbase client. It was announced that Coinbase Pro members would be able to trade Dai (DAI), Golem (GNT), Maker (MKR), and Zilliqa (ZIL) within certain jurisdictions at least. Of course, the appeal is to draw more clients on to the Pro membership, but why not give all users a trial in the Christmas spirit?

An initiative called ‘Coinbase Earn’ was also detailed, which would allow users to ”earn cryptocurrencies while learning about them in a simple and engaging way.” Sound good? Well, unfortunately, this option is in the invite-only stage for the select few users they chose to reach out to via email.

The useful

Coinbase users in the US can benefit from several of the more practical new features added during the 12-day period. These benefits include being able to withdraw funds straight to their Paypal accounts, and use the e-gift card feature for Uber and Nike among other retail outlets, which were previously available to just the EU and UK members.

In all, Coinbase gave onlookers an entertaining diversion to follow and while some days may have lacked real substance, there is room for improvement for the coming year. Moreover, it was a nice gesture from the exchange at the very least.

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Direct Debit vs Blockchain: Breaking the Donation Conundrum

Direct Debit vs Blockchain: Breaking the Donation Conundrum

Blockchain has the potential to deliver what all people want have been asking for over the years: payment environments where donor money can be tracked by all parties, ensuring support arrives at the point of need in its entirety.

Writer Richard Cornfield recently examined the questionable nature of donating to charity in today’s myriad of needy causes. He has examined the long accepted method of charitable donations and measured up against DLT in an attempt to establish if exploitative and ineffectual charities can be taken completely out of the equation.

The old model

Many people make snap decisions to upon request through TV advertising to donate to charities, particularly at this time of year. Those more regular donors set up a direct debit order. Street fundraisers are noted for “selling” this last option, given the unfortunate epithet “street muggers” as a result, according to Cornfield.

The problem is these muggers don’t actually work for the charities they appear to be fundraising for but outsourcing third parties who provide fundraising services for a host of different charities. As a result, they are paid a commission for setting up direct debits and are well trained to deal with all objections or considerations offered by potential donors.

Here lies the problem for the man in the street approached for a donation to Syrian refugees or famine in Sudan; where does the money go?

The street vendor makes his cut, typically EUR 50-100 for a direct debit set up but this does not go to the charity, due to the outsourcing company charging the charity about EUR 100, resulting in the donor, in reality, paying EUR 5 per month for four years or so before making any net contribution to the charity itself.

Once the money finally arrives at the charity, such organizations then allow 35% for admin fees leaving about 65% of the donor’s contribution after vendor and commission fees. Cornfield cites the infamous Red Cross case in Haiti after the devasting earthquakes of 2010 which raised half a billion dollars to rebuild homes. The result: six homes at USD 83 million dollars per house, in one of the poorest countries on earth.

Blockchain

Charities such as GiveCrypto.org, BitGive Foundation, and Alice SI facilitate charitable donations to areas in need via cryptocurrency. The donor in these cases can follow their funds via the public blockchain, in some cases through separate tracking platforms giving the funds complete visibility from source to final location. Administration costs can be completely removed allowing for the same payment at the source of a donation to arrive at the point of need.

The only problem still to be overcome is what happens with the funds on arrival at the point of use and how local complexities can be overcome, often in war-torn zones or famine inflicted areas with numerous NGOs on the ground.

Given the knowledge, this is not a difficult choice for the donor, and answers that burning question: Where does my money actually go? With blockchain, donors can give their support with a greater degree of certainty that they are helping a just cause.

 

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