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Crypto Pioneer $4.57 Million Charity Bid Wins Lunch with Warren Buffett

Crypto Pioneer .57 Million Charity Bid Wins Lunch with Warren Buffett

As Tronsters were enthusiastically waiting for the “big announcement”, the suspense was broken by Justin Sun, who took to Twitter to announce his win at the eBay charity auction to have lunch with the highly-esteemed investor, philanthropist and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett.

Justin Sun, owner of BitTorrent and CEO of Tron Foundation, bid a whopping USD 4.57 million at the 20th annual charity lunch to break the record held by Warren Buffett for the past 20 years. The previous record was set at USD 3.45 million in 2016.

Justin Sun wins charity auction to have lunch with Warrenn Buffett

The amount will be contributed to the San Francisco based charity organization, Glide Foundation. This foundation provides assistance to the homeless with a goal to establish a community living with poverty and marginalization.

Highlighting the importance of such a foundation, Sun said:

“BitTorrent and TRON’s US headquarters are in San Francisco, and bidding on this charity auction was a key priority for our team. I’m proud to have my bid donated to GLIDE, a foundation that provides critical support for our local homeless community.”

Previously, Warren had openly shown his skepticism towards cryptocurrencies. However, he did see potential in the underlying technology of cryptocurrencies, Blockchain. In an open letter to the community, Justice Sun revealed that he hopes to secure a mutual understanding through rightful communication to build Buffett’s confidence in cryptocurrencies and the blockchain technology. He said:

“I also firmly believe that with the right communication and understanding, Buffett will change his overall stance on cryptocurrency and blockchain, allowing this new investment strategy to become integrated into his overall portfolio.”

He further stated:

“I want to close by noting that this is not only a personal highlight for me or even a great day for TRON and BitTorrent; I see this as a win for the entire blockchain community. I can’t wait for the lunch and the opportunity to learn from a master investor and hope he will take away a few insights from us!”

Binance CEO, Changpeng Zhao, pointed out to the importance of the move for pushing adoption as a pathway for the entire financial world to set eyes on cryptocurrencies.

 

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BitMEX Billionaire Co-Founder Joins Gates-Buffett Charity

BitMEX Billionaire Co-Founder Joins Gates-Buffett Charity

BitMEX billionaire co-founder Ben Delo has come onboard ‘The Giving Pledge‘ non-profit initiative for the mega rich founded by philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates and investor Warren Buffett.

Ben Delo, billionaire co-founder of crypto derivatives exchange BitMEX, has pledged to donate the majority of his wealth to global challenges.

The 35-year old co-founder of one of the biggest Bitcoin derivatives platform in the world, has pledged to give most of his wealth to the charity, hoping to provide the funding to catastrophes such as nuclear wars and extreme climate crises. It also funds the ever-growing threats from emerging tech such as “engineered pandemics and advanced AI”, according to CoinDesk.

In a note on the charity’s website, Delo stated a series of concerns:

“Nuclear security cannot be taken for granted. The prospect of extreme climate change is real. Looking forward, advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and synthetic biology will pose new and complex challenges.”

He explained his choice of focus, saying in summary the he believed that “all lives are valuable, including those of future generations”. He spoke of a “vast and extraordinary future”that lay ahead should humankind be able to “navigate the challenges and opportunities posed by new technologies in the upcoming century”.

The BitMEX billionaire isn’t the first of the wealthy crypto-sphere to join the ultra rich in donating to The Giving Pledge. Last year, Brian Armstrong from Coinbase also backed the funding for education and other causes.

The charity has described itself as “an effort to help address society’s most pressing problems by inviting the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to commit more than half of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes either during their lifetime or in their will”.

 

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Venezuelans Receive Free Crypto in Charity Relief Program

Venezuelans Got Free Crypto in Charity Relief Program

A social health worker through a crypto program dubbed GiveCrypto has come to the aid of families in Venezuela anguishing in the economic rot of the country caused by hyperinflation cascaded from political decadence.

One such Venezuelan, Andreina Cordero from Barquisimeto, said:

“We finally got to eat chicken. And there were also vegetables for the kids.”

According to reports from news outlet CityNews, A cryptocurrency startup from Silicon Valley conducted a three-month trial in crypto transfers and engaged families in the activity by donating around USD 7 worth of EOS tokens weekly (thought to be Venezuela’s monthly minimum wage) to over 100 families in Venezuelan. This token meant a great deal as they were able to trade it on exchanges for local currencies, and the funds were used to buy groceries.

While the trial is over, the families have expressed their gratitude and wished such an initiative could continue, at least for the period of the pernicious economic state of the country. “I’m very grateful for what they did for us. It would be a blessing if something like that were set up again,” says Cordero.

Cryptocurrencies have demonstrated their effective use as Charitable instruments to circumvent banking operations, especially at the remittance level in order to carry relief in the form of digital currency to places where they are needed.

Despite the harsh government policies towards cryptocurrencies – excluding its controversial oil-back crypto, the Pedro; Venezuela has been a good testing ground for the viability of cryptocurrencies. As executive director of GiveCrypto Joe Waltman affirms:

“Crypto has the highest likelihood of being helpful to people in places where the money is broken. And there’s probably no better example of broken money right now than Venezuela.”

The program seems to be taking up the challenge of empowering non-tech-savvy individuals to use mobile phones to access cryptocurrency and drive more utility, moreover, the pilot was revealed as an attempt to a larger plot to infiltrate Venezuela’s economy with what seems to be ‘stable coins,’ which was described as more stable than Bitcoin. The project’s manager Efrain Pineda said:

“We want to show that people who are not techies or investors can also benefit from this technology. Anyone can use crypto to protect themselves from inflation and make their daily life easier.”

The trail to rebuilding Venezuela’s economy using cryptocurrency and relief materials facilitated through it may have long been set when Venezuelans turned to Bitcoin as an alternate currency to the devalued Bolivar, followed by the humanitarian efforts of the likes of Coinbase who donated USD 10,000 worth of ZCash (ZEC) to GiveCrypto.org.

Other initiates are beginning to take roots to relief the poverty-stricken country from the dire situation. Another initiative currently being developed by AirTm plans to pay Venezuelans a one-time payment of USD 10, which could go a long way to supplement other sources of income. So far, the company has reportedly raised over USD 300,000 through donations out of USD 1 million.

 

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International Women’s Day: Women and Crypto – The Direction in 2019

International Women's Day: Women and Crypto – The Direction in 2019

It is International Women’s Day 2019, and a time for Bitcoin News to reflect on a year in print and celebrate women in fintech, and those women of all ages whose lives still remain largely uncelebrated.

The point of International Women’s Day is to look back over the past year and pinpoint the successes and failures in the promotion of equality between the genders. It is also a time to reflect on how to further combat sexual violence, harassment, domestic violence against women, and examine gender power structures, particularly in business.

A new UK government report has revealed that salary imbalance between the genders when it comes to business is still slow to change. Although one in three entrepreneurs are women in the UK — a hugely improved figure — many of the companies run by women are also half the size of those with male directorship. The report goes on to indicate that accelerating female recruitment into business over the next year could add an extra USD 25 billion to the UK economy alone.

One such entrepreneur is Queenslander Leanne Kemp who was named by the World Economic Forum as one of the most promising tech pioneers of 2018. Kemp’s blockchain startup, Everledger, was founded in April 2015, offering a way of tracking the provenance of diamonds; identifying them, and following their ownership history. She now has 2.2 million diamonds listed on Everledger’s blockchain and has now begun to add art, wine, watches jewelry and even natural resources to the blockchain. She maintained:

“We have a responsibility as next-generation technologists to underpin how this technology will form and inform all of us in our roles as citizens of the planet… There’s an important role to be had in re-innovating existing products in markets to bring transparency and provenance and then also the tracking of their second lives.”

Another Australian, Katrina Donaghy, co-founder of startup Civic Ledger, took her talents to London in 2014 to explore how she could integrate Bitcoin and blockchain into business. She told the Australian Financial Review that on arrival she was surprised to see the degree to which these technologies were already being utilized by London’s large financial institutions.

“If you just look at the companies that have done ICOs, there are very few women, but if you look at the ones that have been built based on customer validation and actually have sales, well most of the good blockchain companies that are still around were co-founded by women in the early days.”

In the US in 2018 ConsenSys teamed up with Black Girls Code, a non-profit organization providing tech training to young black women between the ages of 7 and 17. This established the first blockchain training program of its kind in the US which has plans to branch into US states and beyond. The program will eventually be available in Oakland, California, Atlanta, Georgia and in New York City, with plans to run in Johannesburg, South Africa. Black Girls Code CEO Kimberly Bryant commented:

“The ConsenSys team has consistently impressed me with their commitment to creating pathways for access and inclusion within the blockchain ecosystem and their passion for introducing these tools to the next generation of coders.”

The organization wishes to train a million girls by the year 2040, becoming a high-tech version of the Girl Guides. One aim is to ensure that minority groups in fintech have a space to grow and flourish encouraging innovative outside investments into such groups.

Amber Baldet is a household name in fintech, co-founder of Clovyr, well known for her work at JPMorgan as a leader of blockchain products, and developed the Ethereum based Quorum software designed to accelerate financial databases. Baldet left Wall Street to develop her own software by founding Clovyr and get startups on the road to using blockchain technology more effectively. She says:

“I’ve had the opportunity to talk to people who see things very differently… Being able to transition back and forth, I can help people understand each other and build stronger products together.”

Of gender diversity in the tech world she suggests, “People have tried to call out crypto as being better or worse…Diversity is a challenge across all tech subcultures.”

In the UK last year, the number of women showing an interest in investing in cryptocurrencies leaped from 6% to 13% over a six-month period. A City Am conducted by cryptocurrency firm London Block Exchange, showed that cryptocurrency was most popular with women in the millennials group. Another survey conducted by Reddit at the end of 2017 indicated that one out of five women had considered investing in cryptocurrencies with a huge 96% of Ether users being males.

What then of the uncelebrated names of the past year? Since last year, the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed cryptocurrency-based food vouchers to more than 100,000 Syrian refugees living in Jordan, bypassing bureaucracy and getting aid to where it’s needed. The new project initiated by the WFP and UN Women was announced supporting the UN Women’s “cash for work” program running at both camps.

The cash for work program was organized by Syrian refugees to support local communities, offering them the opportunity to put something back into their new homeland. Typically, paid tasks included collecting waste, assisting with projects building homes, roads, and local schools, and in some cases working in education and the health industry as assistants. In areas which have seen destruction due to conflict and have since been liberated, refugees also participated with repairing heavily shelled infrastructure.

Cash transfers as part of that scheme enabled women assisting in the UN Women cash program to access their funds directly without a third party with accounts securely stored on a blockchain network. Women were thus enabled to pay for goods at participating supermarkets in Jordan by using one of a network of eye-scanners at their local supermarket, linking their cash to the Building Blocks program which was introduced for refugees at the Azraq camp in 2017.

UN Women continued its program to increase financial literacy rates among women by offering seminars at their “Oases”, encouraging recipients to examine their Building Blocks accounts online. Oases are safe spaces for women and children to congregate in the camps, where they can meet others and learn. They are usually funded through overseas aid and the host nation. UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka explained the thinking behind its plans for women refugees in Jordan:

“We know that women in crisis situations and displacement settings tend to have lower digital literacy than men, and often lack access to the technology and connectivity that are so critical in today’s world.”

Ngcuka adds that such projects are designed to accelerate, as she put it, “progress towards women’s economic empowerment on a large scale”.

Humanitarian organizations have pointed out that women are disproportionately affected by such crises and consequently are often forced to become the primary breadwinners while taking care of their children and families as an extra burden.

Robert Opp, Director of Innovation at WFP, points out that it is a desire for “social good” which is driving the current use of blockchain technology by the organization:

“Blockchain technology allows us to step up the fight against hunger. Through blockchain, we aim to cut payment costs, better protect beneficiary data, control financial risks, and respond more rapidly in the wake of emergencies… using blockchain can be a qualitative leap, not only for WFP, but for the entire humanitarian community.”

 

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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.”

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