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Macron’s Got Problems but Blockchain Ain’t One

Macron's Got Problems but Blockchain Ain't One

French President Emmanuel Macron is seeing his popularity wane by the day due to his planned reforms for business and industry but new technologies appear to be flourishing under the current government, regardless of current discontentment.

Blockchain, in particular, has been earmarked and the latest news of IBM’s new initiatives and investments which should bring 1,800 jobs to France won’t hurt either. Nor will IBM’s new French project with P-TECH to support the disadvantages in finding work. In fact, France is on the crest of a blockchain wave currently, despite Macron’s reforms being soundly rejected. With overturned cars burning in Paris streets it seems hard to imagine that French politicians have got anything right under the current regime.

Perhaps a hint of this shifting focus towards new technologies by a Macron government was the dabbling with taxation this year, with the government finally settling on dropping the tax on cryptocurrency to 17%… for the time being. Clearly, the government doesn’t want to stifle an industry which it is now openly promoting, suggesting that it should now benefit from an EUR 500 million  state handout.

Member of the National Assembly, Laure de La Raudière, is one of those calling for the money, who sees efficiency as an end product arguing that government should follow private industry’s lead using DLT. She says: “I draw the alarm: it’s time to invest. There are not yet established positions in the world.”

She also cited the certification of diplomas or administrative documents as potential use cases. France’s Prime Minister Édouard Philippe is another sold on blockchain although taking some criticism on the subject of allowing Bitcoin to be dispersed in tabacs around France via a ticketing system. In other areas, he’s on safer ground:

“Take the example of agribusiness. To have an interesting blockchain in terms of traceability and food security, it is necessary to bring together distributors, producers, logisticians, the industrialists… And do not let only one actor manage the network as Carrefour or Casino can do today.”

Carrefour was the first to set the blockchain clock ticking with its produce monitoring program being introduced into some of its supermarkets earlier this year, a move recently followed in Spain.

The multi-party suggestion that France should receive massive financial banking to promote blockchain has occurred according to De la Raudière because she believes that she is not alone in wanting to see France as a leader rather than a follower in Europe. She argues, “France must have a conquering philosophy on the subject with the State in the first place, both as a user and federator of projects.”

Other suggestions coming from the recent parliamentary report highlight a call for the opening of bank accounts for blockchain-centered businesses which must register with the Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF), the French stock market regulator.

 

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UNICEF Blockchain Roll Call Funds 6 New Companies, 20 Tech Startups

UNICEF Blockchain Roll Call Funds 6 New Companies, 20 Tech Startups

United Nations International Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) is to go ahead with a program which will see the organization invest USD 100,000 into six blockchain companies.

In its continued efforts to leverage blockchain tech into its programmes, UNICEF will also include 20 other tech startups as part of the same project. The six companies named are Atix Labs, Onesmart, Prescrypto, Statwig, Utopixar and W3 Engineers.

These companies were selected from 100 applications from across the world. Their challenge is to build prototypes for global issues such as health-care delivery, affordable access to mobile phone connectivity, and the ability to direct finances and resources to social-impact projects.

Chris Fabian, Principal Adviser, UNICEF Innovation, says that his organization is glad to be in at such an early stage at the development of blockchain technology, explaining:

“…there is a great deal of experimentation, failure, and learning ahead of us as we see how, and where, we can use this technology to create a better world. That’s exactly the stage when UNICEF Innovation Fund invests: when our financing, technical support, and focus on vulnerable populations can help a technology grow and mature in the fairest and equitable way possible.”

The UN itself is not new to working with companies that apply the latest technologies such as blockchain. Binance’s head of blockchain charity indicated in the past that blockchain technology would bring “transformative solutions to social problems, and help bridge the UN Sustainable Development Goals funding gap in fast and innovative ways”.

The release accompanying the news of this latest project suggested that investments into blockchain companies and other tech organizations were in line with the direction that UNICEF is taking; using smart contracts, creating distributed decision making and working to build a better knowledge of DLT.

This changing view and leaning towards emerging technologies were illustrated early this year when UNICEF France followed up on previous cryptocurrency-related initiatives it adopted this year, to add nine popular digital currencies to its website donation portal.

 

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Enrolment Race Pushes Business Schools to Update Crypto Curricula

Enrolment Race Pressures Business Schools to Update Crypto Curricula

Recent reports indicate that rather than course numbers dropping due to a market down, the numbers of potential new entrants into the cryptocurrency space from other sectors are swelling. With top blockchain developers in the US pulling down salaries above USD 250,000, it is hardly surprising that the recent cryptocurrency bear market has done little to deter those considering entering the industry.

For many, the main route into the burgeoning fintech space has now become via a growing range of courses being offered by major universities and business schools around the world.

Courses are now on offer from far and wide whether it be in the Scottish Highlands, Ivy League Cornell and Stanford in New England or in sunny Cyprus. For those wanting a cultural slant on life for a short period, Saint Petersburg’s State University of Economics and Moscow’s Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) also both run blockchain technology courses. However, there is already a waiting list.

Professor David Yermack from NYC Stern School of Business came early to the university’s MBA program for blockchain and cryptocurrency education. His class has already doubled over the past year and as a result, he has had to move his lectures to a larger auditorium to cater for the swelling numbers at Stern.

The prestigious New York University first established its School of Accounts and Finance in 1900; Stern is one of the oldest and most prestigious business schools in the world. It is also a founding member of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

A notable factor of the current surge to find a place on blockchain and cryptocurrency course is not the just amount of courses becoming available but the way in which some of the world’s most prestigious educational institutions have led the march towards fintech education. A recent Coinbase survey revealed that 42% of the world’s top 50 universities offer at least one course relating to blockchain or cryptocurrencies.

Some 22% of the universities offered more than one course, with Stanford listing ten classes and Cornell nine. The National University of Singapore ranked highest of the non-US universities with five blockchain-related courses. The US universities were far more likely to offer related courses than those abroad; just 5 of the 18 non-US institutions offered such classes.

Clearly, Ivy League universities appreciate the credentials of fintech, with Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University, Dartmouth College, and the University of North Carolina (UNC), all making investments from their endowments into at least one crypto fund.

Finding a place at one of these and other universities won’t get easier though, particularly in the light of tech recruitment sites such as Toptal reporting a 700% increase in demand for skilled blockchain developers since the beginning of last year.

 

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Dutch Province of Limburg Launches Community Crypto

Dutch Province of Limburg Launches Community Crypto

Dutch cryptocurrency platform Studio/Belfius has joined with payment platform LimbU in Limburg in the South of Holland to create its own cryptocurrency for promoting community spirit.

The initiators of the project suggest that the aim is to encourage sustainability, community support, promotion of local produce, and the creation of supply chains throughout Limburg’s 10 provincial regions.

Limburg is the southernmost of 12 provinces of the Netherlands. It is in the southeastern part of the country, stretched out from the north, touching the province of Gelderland, to the south, where it internationally borders Belgium.

The new digital currency, the “Limbu” has no fiat support but is transferable to users’ wallets throughout the province after locals complete a range of civically responsible activities such as; garbage collection, doing small repairs, giving blood, collecting clothes for charity, undergoing first aid training or composting organic waste.

The aim is to also encourage companies, public authorities, and associations to contribute through the scheme towards building a “greener, more welcoming Limburg.” The project’s member Wim Van De Putte explains:

“It was not easy finding the right partner with the required experience and expertise. But from the very outset, Studio Innovation Lab impressed us with its ability to understand this complex issue and its willingness to meet the challenge. In fact, The Studio has its own scalable platform for creating a digital currency based on the blockchain.”

As the project, Uitmuntend Limburg, grows in numbers, it plans to hand over to Limburg.net. and widen the range and scope of activities around the province, especially as thousands of Limburgers across the 10 regions already have their wallets. Ronny Neckebroeck from The Studio commented:

“We are honored to be part of such a beautiful project. Developing the platform and payment app is a major step forward along the way towards making the LimbU project a professional and sustainable initiative. Working with Uitmuntend Limburg, we will make the LimbU a success – we are sure of it. And our experience in innovative digital solutions and blockchain makes us the ideal partner for handling the technological side of this great story.”

At the beginning of this year, The Studio also developed Pengo, an innovative service that enables individuals to send payment requests via instant messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp.

The Netherlands is a leader in advancing blockchain technology in Europe and often slips under the radar, but the Dutch government is no slouch when it comes to promoting the interests of companies adopting new technologies, especially when such projects benefit the entire community such as Uitmuntend Limburg. Holland is a country with a social conscience, and legislation over the years has illustrated the degree to which its population is a beneficiary of the desire shown by the government to support its society as a whole.

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Western Australia Get First Blockchain Center as Perth Goes Crypto Crazy

Western Australia Get First Blockchain Center as Perth Goes Crypto Crazy

Western Australia is having to reinvent itself after being the hub of Australia’s massive gold mining industry for years, and blockchain and cryptocurrency are beckoning.

Mining in Western Australia, together with the petroleum industry in the state, accounted for 92% of the State’s and 41% of Australia’s income from total merchandise exports in 2015-16. The state hosted 111 principal mining projects and hundreds of smaller quarries and mines.

Over the past few years mining has taken a hit, but this is nothing new to West Australians who have lived in a boom-bust economy for years. Experts say it is on the brink of another mining boom with new projects and tens of thousands of jobs to be created in the next year. FMG, Rio Tinto and BHP are set to invest billions of dollars to recruiters struggling already to keep up with demand for workers.

New game in town

The state’s capital, Perth, on the banks of the meandering Swan River, has been both the beneficiary and the victim of the state’s boom-bust economic roller coaster, most recently affected by China’s own economy and its need for minerals. A new game in town which local business has taken to is the city’s Blockchain Center, a project created in order to push new technologies such as blockchain into business and public consciousnesses. Investors in Perth have been moving away from the state’s backbone traditional investments such as real estate and mining over the past 18 months towards developing technologies.

Australia itself is becoming a blockchain and cryptocurrency trendsetter, with the newly-elected government showing a great interest in leveraging blockchain into government department systems in a number of sectors. Crypto towns have appeared, and in some areas travelling without a Bitcoin payment facility could cause problems for the keen traveller as locals try to create bitcoin communities to boost tourism.

Perth Blockchain Center will allow startups to share resources and ideas with like-minded business personnel and entrepreneurs. Sam Lee is the brains behind the venture, which he hopes will encourage business to stay in the city by offering every resource that a blockchain startup might need. He points out:

“Whether it’s a retail investor or a developer interested in implementing the technology, a blockchain center as the knowledge hub has the access required to upskill the local ecosystem to ensure better outcomes through higher quality projects.”

Lee maintains that a problem for new startups in this field is frequently that such companies are unable to access capital, often driving them overseas for a more supportive business environment. The center plans to change this situation, encouraging these young start-ups to stay in town through its knowledgeable local support.

Also in Western Australia’s capital, Perth Mint announced earlier this year that it had plans to win back investors who lost funds at the end of 2017 by creating the Mint’s own cryptocurrency backed by gold. Perth Mint is Australia’s largest exporter of gold, with about USD 18 billion in revenue from exported metals. Richard Hayes, Director of the Perth Mint commented:

“…you see this massive influx of capital and funds into Bitcoin and its derivatives because people are looking for something other than traditional forms of investment… [our own crypto] would have all the beneficial aspects of a distributed networks, namely very fast transactions which will facilitate trade. However, it will be backed and supported by precious metals. So, there is a non-virtual aspect of it that will ensure its value.”

 

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1 in 3 Millennials View Bitcoin as Currency of Choice for Freelancers

1 in 3 Millennials View Bitcoin as Currency of Choice for Freelancers

The results of a recent survey into the preferences of American freelancers by P2P platform Humans.net has revealed that 29% of professionals in the US would be happy to receive either a full or part salary payment in cryptocurrency.

Among the 1,100 US respondents in the survey were self-employed professionals such as self-employed writers, tutors, designers, and developers, of which 4% were already in receipt of some form of salary, in either Bitcoin or Ethereum.

Some 18% of the respondents, who were chosen randomly and not pre-screened prior to selection, said that they would prefer to be paid in Bitcoin or another digital currency over a fiat salary. An additional 11% said that we would not be averse to some kind of partial payment comprising both cryptocurrency and fiat. This resulted in a 29% thumbs-up among survey respondents for some kind of crypto salary.

The age group of freelance professionals in this field is generally millennials based, such is the nature of innovation and design in fintech, attracting many college leavers. A new Clovr survey of investment potential, conducted in October, positioned high-earning millennials at the center stage when it comes to owning cryptocurrency.

These latest figures confirm the results of other surveys conducted this year, showing that it is millennials with money who appear to be taking on cryptocurrency in ever-increasing numbers. This is partly due to the lack of investment options in tradition areas. The Clovr study shows that it is those with annual incomes of between USD 75,000 and USD 99,999 that have become serious investors.

The number of those self-employed professionals looking toward a Bitcoin-based salary was illustrated by another recent survey conducted by British tech company, Sage, that highlighted the fact that across the Atlantic UK freelancers were also keen to receive some kind of crypto-fiat salary payment. The UK survey of 1,000 suggested that similar to the US survey, 31% of Brits would also go for a Bitcoin salary payment should it be offered. Darren Francis, who commissioned the survey commented:

“It’s interesting that more people were leaning towards the “all-in” option; having their sole or dominant income paid to them in cryptocurrency.”

The one emerging fact from the two surveys is that the dip in the value of Bitcoin over past weeks has done little to dampen millennials’ enthusiasm for acquiring the digital currency during this period of market instability, whether it be as part of their salary or a simple purchase. Bitcoin at time of writing is priced at USD 3,884.41 on CoinMarketCap.

 

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Second Rwandan School Completed with Paxful’s #BuiltWithBitcoin

Second Rwandan School Completed with Paxful's #BuiltWithBitcoin

Recently, Bitcoin News featured as part of its Humanitarian Blockchain series news that an education complex was being constructed as part of Paxful’s #BuiltWithBitcoin program in Rwanda. The story is now revisited to see how much progress has been made.

Paxful Inc operates a peer-to-peer payment logistics platform which focuses on buying and selling of Bitcoin. After a fact-finding trip to South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana, it found that Africans were turning to Bitcoin in ever increasing numbers with Paxful’s transactions alone standing at SAR 948 million (USD 66 million) per month. Over the past year, Paxful transactions from South Africa increased by 25%, by 60% in Nigeria and by up to 100% in other parts of the continent. For Africa as a whole, Paxful has seen a 225% increase in users in the last 12 months.

NGO Zam Zam Water, in a cooperative project with Paxful, had planned to raise USD 100,000 for an education center in Rwanda’s Bugesera District comprising two schools back in August. This followed on from the construction of the first primary school earlier in the year using Paxful’s #BuiltWithBitcoin initiative and a donation of USD 50,000 in Bitcoin.

The second, much larger, project has now been fundraised for and completed in the space of just a few short months, providing the region with its second school double the size of the first, with six classrooms and six full-time teachers. The school also has its own cafeteria, potable well, and sustainable solar panel power system.

Paxful has a busy 2019 ahead with numerous projects already in the pipeline. The company announced it wasn’t prepared to stop at its first BTC donation but now had plans to expand on the two completed schools in Rwanda to fund and build a further 100 schools across the African continent. With Bitcoin donations and academic scholarships the prize for socially supportive projects, Paxful is fast becoming a humanitarian face of blockchain. Summarizing these recent events, Paxful’s CEO Ray Youseff commented:

“We encourage the cryptocurrency sector to contribute more to humanitarian projects. The #BuiltWithBitcoin initiative is an example of bitcoin being used as more than a speculative tool, but a testament to the usefulness of cryptocurrency… To date, we have built two schools — a nursery and a primary school in Rwanda, Africa — and provided scholarships to Afghan refugees, and plan to continue these philanthropic ventures.”

There are many reasons why Africans are beginning to turn to cryptocurrencies rather than traditional currencies. Many nationals fall foul of inflation and hyperinflation, resulting in weak and unstable financial systems. Recently, countries such as Zimbabwe, South Sudan, and oil-rich Nigeria have all suffered, many of these countries with inflation rates well into the hundreds of percentages. In these situations, it is hardly surprising that populations look to a more stable form of monetary solution in their daily lives.

 

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Australian Regulator Gives Thumbs Up for CoinZoom’s Market Leap

Australian Regulator Gives Thumbs Up for CoinZoom's Market Leap

The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) has issued its latest cryptocurrency license, this time to US-based cryptocurrency exchange, CoinZoom.

Serving both Australian and international customers, Coinzoom can now operate within Australia and as a cryptocurrency exchange, accepting and exchanging fiat, digital assets, and any other cryptocurrency.  The platform will now over a “one-stop user experience to link their credit card, bank account, and cryptocurrency wallets”.

Australia is the most recent of the company’s Money Transmitter Licenses to be issued after Florida, Ohio, Washington, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, and Oregon. The company hopes that it will soon be able to trade all over the US and is now available for trading in over 35 states. Its Australian adventure is due to kickstart in Q1 2019 offering currencies including Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, XRP and other top traded altcoins available on the platform, along with a fiat to crypto service.

Australia is continuing to maintain its cryptocurrency profile in the global arena, with the eastern state of Queensland largely leading the way. CoinZoom will be joining a number of already well-established cryptocurrency exchanges both in Queensland and the rest of the country with a couple of high profile blockchain-based coups already in the bag as the year draws to a close, such as the one created by Australia Post.

The postal service Down Under, Australia Post, is now enabling customers to easily access crypto exchanges through a new platform called Digital iD. Created by Australia’s postal service, the iD platform enables users to dispense with private documents such as drivers licenses and passports for initial verification, which often results in anything up to a ten-day wait for new users before they can access crypto exchange services.

 

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Manila Residents Paid ETH for Consensys-Backed Beach Cleanup

beach cleanup

Manila residents are being paid in Ether for cleaning up the city’s plastic-ridden beaches in a new crypto for work project in the Philippine capital.

Recent research has shown that that five Asian countries — China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand — account for more than 55% of global plastic waste leaking into the ocean. Indonesia, currently participating in a number of blockchain programs, is also a significant contributor to ocean pollution.

Manila’s beaches are listed as being some of the most heavily polluted beaches among these nations. Residents now have the chance to do something about this and be rewarded with cryptocurrency in the process. Stirring this social conscience is Ethereum’s co-founder Joe Lubin, who is also CEO of blockchain software giant ConsenSys.

He commented, “In Manila, participants will be paid in ETH for spending a few hours cleaning up one of the most heavily polluted beaches in the world. Bounties Network and ConsenSys Impact are proving a new model where people fund causes directly without intermediaries.”

Beach cleaning participants will be able to use a decentralized application (Dapp) based on the Ethereum blockchain to receive their rewards in ETH. The project is part of a larger ConsenSys program called ‘Bounties for the Oceans: Philippines Pilot – Sustained, Verifiable Plastic Cleanups’. The initiative states:

“Plastic pollution costs the lives of 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals per year… With Bounties for the Ocean, we are asking people everywhere to submit verifiable proof of their direct plastic cleanup contribution as a way of fostering widespread and long-term behavioral shift. Do not depend on centralized organizations, go out there and do it yourselves.”

Manila residents are not the only ones “doing it for themselves”. There are a number of blockchain programs around the world at the moment which are making a significant contribution to fighting pollution.

US cleaning supplies firm SC Johnson has announced that it plans to launch blockchain rewards-based recycling centers in Indonesia to help solve the problem of plastic pollution. The company, which also which owns such brands as Glade, Ziploc and Mr Muscle, will open eight centers with the support of Plastic Bank using a tokens-for-waste payment system for local users.

A Norwegian startup has come up with a way of using blockchain to clean beaches via token rewards for recycling. The public, by removing plastic waste to any certified recycling station, is rewarded with waste tokens. The idea draws on a system that has been in operation for some time throughout Norway where plastic bottles can be returned to shops for between 15 and 30 cents a bottle.

The Philippines project is well placed given the country’s adoption of Bitcoin and Ethereum as legitimate forms of payment by the central bank, with local platform Coins.ph conducting business using partnerships with major commercial banks, remittance outlets, credit card companies, electric grid operators, and convenience stores,

Having become the largest platform in Southeast Asia, Coins.ph has over 5 million users.

 

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The Golden Goose’s Bitcoin Egg: World’s Largest Mining Farm in Paraguay

The makeshift mining industry which has grown around Paraguay’s Itapúa Hydroelectric Dam near the borders of Argentina and Brazil is to become official with a new plan to build the world’s largest mining farm in the region.

Bitcoin News recently reported that a growing group of crypto miners had created their own business in the region with an estimated 20,000 units generating Bitcoin and Ether. Many of the miners setting up business in the region have become millionaires, providing a much-needed boost to the local economy.

The potential for the dam to change lives for the better through providing power for cryptocurrency mining hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Paraguayan government, with the potential for mining to fund the countries hospitals, schools, and railways as well as to revive the local economy.

It appears Itapúa is finally going to create the regeneration many have been calling for as the government has revealed plans to put into action “Golden Goose”, a project which will see the construction of five mining centers on 50 square kilometers near the tourist town of Ciudad del Este.

The Golden Goose project is part of a massive regeneration plan by Paraguay’s government bring about technological advancement through the growth of new technology and possible revision of cryptocurrency tax laws to enable the enterprise to make an impact on the country’s economy,

It was noted by Choi Yong-Kwan, Chairman of the Commons Foundation, that 10% of Itaipu’s power was used in Paraguay whereas a huge 80% was currently being exported. Thus, the dam had more than adequate power to be redirected towards the mining project.

Paraguay’s Blockchain Technology Foundation plans to raise funds for the project with a pre-sale and Initial Exchange Offering through Bitcoin, MicroBitcoin, and Ethereum. Token holders are promised 30% of the mining profits generated by the new mining center.

 

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