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Africa, China Mobile Tech Market and Cryptocurrency Revolution

Africa, China Mobile Technology and Cryptocurrency Revolution

Africa may have contributed a great deal to Bitcoin transactions, according to peer-to-peer crypto exchange Paxful. This has been partly due to the increased inflation rate in some countries and the fact that cryptocurrencies appeal to a large number of underbanked and unbanked individuals on the continent.

The quest to venture into cryptocurrency related business relation as the opportunity in this niche currently presents, may not appeal as much to the Chinese tech investors at the moment says Stephany Zoo, head of marketing at BitPesa. She also was of the opinion that cryptocurrency activity for cross-border payments on the continent is not as pronounced as advertised, stating that if it were so, China having a large number of cryptocurrency owners would have influenced its use in Africa since it’s a major trade partner.

Over the years, the African continent has been favorable to the Chinese tech market. As reported by media outlet the Financial Times, Huawei and ZTE played an important role in building the continent’s mobile network.

The tech potential on the continent is yet to be fully optimized though, as new companies onboarding the ecosystem have also taken advantages of the latent opportunities. Last year, Quartz Africa reported on how a low profile Chinese handset maker Transsion rose to limelight due to Africa’s mobile market. However, there is fierce competition between Western and the Chinese tech companies for a larger share of the African market.

According to Zoo, Chinese tech investors are still wary about crypto investments because of the associated risks, saying that they prefer to stick to solar, ed-tech, e-commerce and IoT. The emerging market opportunity for cryptocurrency in the continent is currently not fully explored, although Zoo added that as time goes on, there’s a possibility that more Chinese investors will trust the market as they work with Africans.

Leading global smartphone vendor Samsung will reportedly include a native cryptocurrency wallet feature in its upcoming Galaxy S10, which will go a long way to facilitate adoption on the side of smartphone users. However, it would be remarkable for the brand in relation to the African market since it holds a huge stake there.

Although Samsung came in second place to Transsion in terms of smartphone shipments to Africa during Q2 2018, it remains unknown how the alleged cryptocurrency wallet feature will improve its market share, especially in South Africa which accounts for the largest share of shipments (17.4%) in the continent. Moreover, South Africa may be considering a regulatory framework for the industry, however, in December 2018, it did say it was considering crypto as part of its National Payment System (NPS).

A recent ongoing survey by the Financial Times is attempting to gauge the level of awareness and possible adoption potential of cryptocurrency and Africa happens to be one of the focal points. BitcoinNews will keep tabs on the outcome of the survey to understand what Africans with internet enable devices want from digital currencies.

 

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Etisalat Contracts Tech Firms to Develop Blockchain, AI Solutions

Etisalat Contracts Tech Firms to Develop Blockchain and AI Solutions

In a press release yesterday, Middle East telecom carrier giant Etisalat, through its innovation program Future Now, has signed agreements with four tech companies to develop solutions using blockchain and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies.

The signing of the contract happened after the success of Dubai’s Future Accelerator’s Program, which led to the launch of the Future Now project. The four beneficiaries of the contract include Yitu Technology (China), Com IoT Technologies (UAE), 300cubits (Hong Kong), and Tradefin (USA).

As per the press release, the condition for selecting these companies was based on their “capability to build and launch their core technology and be able to demonstrate traction and substantial use cases”.

On the Etisalat part of the agreement, expectations include granting the selected firms “access to Etisalat Digital resources and experts, office space, and support needed to deliver joint projects to Etisalat’s client base”.

Two challenges were created last year by Etisalat Digital – a part of the fifth group of Dubai Future Accelerators – towards the United Arab Emirates (UAE) 2021 economic vision.

One part of the problem dealt with the application of AI behavioral analysis that could stem the tide of crime-related patterns. The companies Yitu Technology (China), and Com IoT Technologies, UAE were given this responsibility as well as to develop a framework solution for road traffic that utilizes CCTVs to automate traffic processes and prevent congestion and accidents.

The other part of the challenge involved a sub-category two-part solution using the blockchain technology. The first part was assigned to 300cubits (Hong Kong) to explore possible solutions “to reduce the transactional costs and complexity in business processes for banks, governments, and private organizations”, by a benchmark of 40% in the course of five years.

The second part of the sub-category solution was tasked to Tradefin (USA) and it involved a focus on “the adoption of blockchain to enable exchange across various loyalty currencies and to transform a loyalty currency into a cryptocurrency that can be used to perform online and physical transactions”.

The overall outlook of this partnership seeks to establish collaborative efforts towards an expedited “adoption of cutting edge technologies”.

Legacy organizations continue to seek mainstream use cases for emerging technologies such as the blockchain. While different organizations deploy their research and development protocols into studying the relative use of this technology, one very obvious remark is that “blockchain forges a bridge between systems, and eliminates the need for siloed inventions”.

The Middle East continues to pride itself as a pro-blockchain zone with numerous innovations surrounding the tech. Not long ago, the UAE partnered with Saudi Arabia to develop a product to facilitate cross border payments. Meanwhile, Kuwait Central Bank shook hands with Ripple to enact cross-border payments.

 

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Thailand Develops Blockchain-Based Hybrid Voting System

_Thailand Develops Blockchain-based Hybrid Voting System

News media outlet Bangkok Post announced yesterday that the National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC) in Thailand developed a hybrid e-voting and traditional voting system using blockchain technology.

Head of the cybersecurity laboratory at NECTEC Chalee Vorakulpipat said: “Nectec developed blockchain technology for e-voting that can be applied to national, provincial or community elections.” The technology according to him is not limited to community politics and can also be used in “business votes such as the board of directors.”

The goal of using a blockchain, a technology that is immutable is to “reduce fraud and maintain data integrity”. Chalee said that blockchain is being used “to store valuable data and important documents, such as contracts and votes,” because it is essentially a decentralized system and data are distributed across nodes that make up the system.

According to the news outlet, NECTEC is optimistic about the practical application of blockchain to voting processes in the Thai region, which will become optimized at higher network throughput saying, “When 5G is eventually adopted, all voters will be connected.”

However, before that utopia is achieved, citizens need to be sensitized about the workings of blockchain technology in order to facilitate the processes in a seamless and more efficient manner. Chalee likened the eventual process to that of an online survey done through Google Docs, and with the masses knowledgeable about the system, the process could be simplified through an “email” and then “vote electronically” with users verified using their mobile camera.

More so, Chalee emphasized the need to upgrade the internet connectivity before the process of voting blockchain systems can be effective. “Every voter needs to have an affordable mobile internet connection and identity verification,” he said. The working prototype is ready and only needs a small scale test environment like a university and to that end “NECTEC is also interested in working with the Digital Government Agency.”

Thailand has been making steady progress in its blockchain industry of late. The latest includes the development of decentralized national digital IDs, a system once completed will enable all Thai citizens to have a flexible and highly secure method of self-identification. The project is currently in the test phase and plans for the full-scale launch is set for mid-year.

The country has also been exploring other areas of interest like commerce, agriculture, finance, and intellectual property where blockchain can be of use.

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Facebook Explores Stablecoins Through WhatsApp

Facebook Explores Stablecoins through WhatsApp

As reported by Bloomberg today, social media giant Facebook Inc is working on a stablecoin cryptocurrency for money transfers on its WhatsApp messaging app while eyeing the Indian remittance market.

Bloomberg cited anonymous sources close to this development within Facebook, that the stablecoin project being explored  will have similarities to stablecoins pegged to the US dollar.

The stablecoin property, as with others, will help “to minimize volatility” once associated with other assets classed as custody assets which could also include regular currencies currently being deliberated. These custody assets will “protect the value of the stablecoin”, the report reads. Although development plans are in motion, a release date for the product is still uncertain and at best far from being ready.

Facebook’s interest into the financial service markets may have been orchestrated long before now, possibly highlighted when David Marcus, a former PayPal president, joined Facebook’s messaging app Messenger in 2014 as its vice president. More so, Marcus’s experience as once serving board member with Coinbase becomes invaluable in the new direction Facebook is headed when it launched its blockchain initiative early this year.

India seems to be a perfect site to deploy its product as the WhatsApp messenger is popular in the country, even reaching the rural areas. More so, as a huge economic significance, the interest seems quite valid when it comes to the remittance market. In 2017, India reportedly made up 2.8% of its GDP from foreign remittance equivalent to USD 69 billion according to World Bank data.

Facebook may seem to have encountered eye-opening events after a period of disapproval of the associated elements – cryptocurrency and ICO – as depicted by the ban of ads related to such on its platform earlier this year.

More so, with more mainstream industries delving into blockchain technology and exploring new ways to harness its potential or build on existing architectures, it’s no surprise Facebook queued in. According to the source, a company spokesman said, “Like many other companies, Facebook is exploring ways to leverage the power of blockchain technology.”

In 2018, the rise of stablecoins has become a subject undergoing intense study relative to the volatility of digital currencies, with Bloomberg reporting more than 120 ventures in that direction. Facebook’s recent interest into blockchain and now stablecoins will play a significant role in blockchain adoption seeing how its acquired messenger app – WhatsApp – serves a global market of over 1.5 billion people.

 

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Australian Driver’s License Goes Blockchain in Sydney

Australia has been on the international front line in incorporating blockchain technology into its government departments over the past months.

In developments this year, the Australian federal government has announced that welfare payments could be delivered over blockchain through its Centrelink system. The Australian Department of Health is now actively using blockchain for the storage of medical research records. The Department of Home Affairs is also considering blockchain to bring transparency to the continent’s supply chain. Also, the country has developed a forward-thinking approach to the integration of cryptocurrency into some public services.

In November, the State Government of New South Wales plans to trial a digital drivers license backed by blockchain in Sydney. This will give 140,000 license holders in Sydney’s Eastern Beaches access to the new Secure Logic TrustGrid license.

The new smartphone license on the Service NSW app follows a similar trial held in Dubbo, an NSW town of 55,000, 303 km north-west of Sydney. There, participants were able to use their digital license to gain access to pubs and clubs as well as use as ID when stopped by roadside police for standard checks or breath testing.

Australian data security company Secure Logic’s platform provided the tech behind the digital driver license for both NSW government trials. Secure Logic CEO Santosh Devaraj said this really is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to blockchain tech, and says that the tech will be hugely influential when applied to public services in the years to come:

“The era of standing in line to file government paperwork is coming to an end, as is our reliance on physical identification cards to establish your identity or proof of age with law enforcement or at licensed venues. These are mistake prone, time-consuming, expensive, and impractical ways to offer services.”

South Australian drivers have been able to use a similar app since earlier last September. The SA smart app provides a one-time barcode which refreshes every 30 seconds to prevent fraud. The licenses are able to be scanned in bars and pubs to verify the owner details are genuine and the license is valid.

 

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Samsung Claims Smartphones Provide Best Security for Crypto

Multinational tech conglomerate Samsung has argued that smartphones can provide the best security for cryptocurrency holdings because of the combined efficiency of apps and the presence of the trusted execution environment (TEE).

Cryptocurrency wallet apps like Blockchain and Jaxx are a convenient and popular way to transfer, send and store assets on a smartphone. What Joel Snyder, a senior IT consultant and a contributor to Samsung Insights pointed out, is that the TEE under which the majority of smartphones operate offers a nearly impenetrable barrier for hackers.

Because the TEE is completely independent of an individual’s device with its own separate memory and storage, potential hackers and even operating systems such as Android cannot penetrate and alter or access the data. This prevents passwords and private keys of wallets from being accessed.

Laptops and such devices that utilize conventional data storage units such as an SSD are more vulnerable to risk due to their persistent nature that gives an opportunity for hackers to enter and steal data, cryptocurrency account information included.

Snyder for Samsung noted that while ”a naive wallet developer” might fail to employ the advantages of the TEE and store keys on the phone’s internal storage, the combination of the TEE and an effective wallet offer the most secure place for your cryptocurrency holdings.

What else the TEE can offer

A research effort conducted by Cornell University in December 2016 first offered the concept of Bitcoin scaling via the TEE. The team developed a technology called Teechan which they built on top several TEEs including the Software Guard Extensions of Intel.

The results were promising. Transactions were able to be processed off-chain, then fixed into larger transactions to be established on the blockchain. Significant progress has been seen, with over 2,480 transactions per second recorded as successfully processed.

 

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Telegram CEO Will Use Bitcoin To Frustrate Moscow Ban

Telegram founder Pavlov Durov has refused to comply with a Moscow court which has recently banned the popular cloud-based messaging service.

The ban was passed by the Moscow court in an apparent effort to thwart terrorism, citing the app as playing a role in terrorist activities around the globe.  Security agencies had originally demanded Telegram allow them to access to user information.

Durov informed Telegram users that the reason for the ban was the company’s refusal to provide encryption keys to Russian agencies:

“For the past 24 hours, Telegram has been under a ban by internet providers in Russia… our refusal… was an easy decision. We promised our users 100% privacy and would rather cease to exist than violate this promise.”

Within the last two days, Russia blocked over 15 million IP addresses in attempts to ban Telegram on its territory. Regardless, Telegram remained available for the majority of Russia’s residents #digitalresistance https://t.co/2syVbVzXPg

— Pavel Durov (@durov) April 17, 2018

A day after the ban was put into effect, Durov announced that he would use Bitcoin to fund proxies and VPNs to get around the problem for his customers.

Telegram has been in conflict with Russian regulators for some time regarding the use of the app. Those seeking privacy around the world use the app for its encrypted messaging service offering high levels of privacy. The app is used in many countries in areas of conflict or government oppression as a method of secure and private communication.

In the latest development, Russian state communications regulator Roskomnadzor has blocked IP addresses owned by Google and Amazon, both used by Telegram. Interfax news reports that the Russian regulator has now blocked 18 sub-networks and some 15 to 20 million Google and Amazon IP addresses. Roskomnnadzor is a Russian federal executive body responsible for censorship in media and telecommunications.

As a result, Russian users, as well as being shut out of Telegram, can no longer use other services which route through Google and Amazon servers including the Viber messaging app. Latest reports that Microsoft and Windows updates and online games by Wargaming and Netflix may have been impacted.

Durov appears to be committed to servicing his customers despite all the hurdles thrown his way by Russian government agencies, including making donations of Bitcoin for individuals or companies running proxies and VPN:

“I am happy to donate millions of dollars this year to this cause… I called this Digital Resistance – a decentralized movement standing for digital freedoms and progress globally.”

 

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Finney the Blockchain Blackberry

Foxconn is going to assist Sirin Labs with the development of its new Finney blockchain phone.

The blockchain Blackberry

Finney, the “state-of-the-art mobile device for the Blockchain era”, is rumored to ship in October for a target price of USD 1,000. Sirin has currently received 25,000 preorders, with 2018 sales expected to exceed 100,000 units, with the possibility of reaching several million. The device is due to initially go on sale in stores located in active crypto communities such as Vietnam and Turkey. As sales increase, the intention will be to expand distribution to common mobile retailers.

Cryptocurrency accessibility

Cryptocurrencies have grown in popularity but in terms of everyday convenience, there hasn’t been much progression. Most people store cryptocurrency on hardware or software wallets which tend to require PC access, or hot wallets such as Coinbase. Although mobile wallets are available, they aren’t necessarily as secure. Bitcoin ATMs are increasing in number, but are not as abundant as their fiat counterparts and are limited to trading a few currencies. Having a secure, intuitive mobile designed from the ground up around blockchain would bring cryptocurrency use to the mainstream.

Tech specifications

Current smartphones have several underlying issues in their ability to deliver a secure crypto experience. Sirin Labs’s mission with Finney is to provide the functionality and usability of an Android. Their flagship will shift towards enhanced security via its suite of cybersecurity technologies, providing reliable access to the blockchain. Finney’s physical security switch is a cool addition to the hardware as a preventative measure.

Finney Blockchain Phone

An app store for distributed apps (like ysigns messenger app) will streamline accessibility and provide a competitive marketplace for developers. The ability to make easy purchases from crypto-friendly sites like Overstock and Newegg with quick conversions from cash to crypto may encourage a more widespread adoption from customers and retailers alike.

Secure future

It’s time for innovation in the outdated mobile market shadowed by ever-growing cyber threats. With more personal details being stored on our mobile devices, a future with secure mobile trade and communication is imperative. Mobiles need to take on the responsibility of safeguarding our data so we don’t have to worry as much.

 

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Jonathan Stacke – Bitcoin in India

Jonathan Stacke – Bitcoin in India:

Jonathan Stacke writes on Bitcoin in India for his latest article on The Genesis Block (@TheGenesisBlock). Excerpts:

“With talk of inflation and capital controls familiar to the bitcoin community, one might think Indian citizens would be jumping at the opportunity to adopt the digital currency, yet the hurdles to wide-scale bitcoin proliferation in India may be significant for the foreseeable future. While demand for gold has grown in India, the multiple applications it offers culturally and industrially in addition to acting as an alternative store of wealth may mean that such demand does not translate to bitcoin.”

“[A correlation exists] between bitcoin adoption and internet penetration in a given country. India, with just 12.6% of its citizens having internet access, has the sixth lowest internet penetration of the 100 largest countries. Despite that fact, the size of the total Indian population – more than 1.2 billion – makes India the third largest internet-using population in the world, with 150 million users, behind only China and the US.”

“It is possible to buy and sell bitcoin through a number of websites including buysellbitco.in and there does appear to be a healthy LocalBitcoins market.”

“Not to be overlooked is India’s mobile phone penetration of 71%, or approximately 900 million total users. […] only 44 million Indians are smartphone subscribers.”

“M-PESA, the mobile payment system that has changed the lives of millions in Kenya recently rolled out in India. […] If mobile payment systems like these gain traction in India as they have in Africa, acceptance of digital currency would prove to be a less significant hurdle.”

“India had the highest remittance volume in the world in 2011 with $58 billion, or 3.1% of GDP, according to the World Bank.”

“Forward-thinking companies like Buttercoin have recently stepped in to apply the potential of bitcoin to these markets […]”

“The Reserve Bank of India has stated that it does not immediately intend to regulate bitcoin, but their historic actions indicate that may change soon enough […]”

 – http://thegenesisblock.com/bitcoin-in-india-drivers-and-barriers-to-adoption
 – (Further discussion of this article)

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