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Red Cross Takes to Blockchain to Boost Economy in Third World Countries

Red Cross Takes to Blockchain to Boost Economy in Third World Countries

Red Cross Takes to Blockchain to Boost Economy in Third World Countries

  • Red Cross societies of Norway, Denmark and Kenya launched blockchain-backed “local currencies” as a two-year scheme to mitigate the problems related to hard cash.
  • Testing has already begun in Kenya and Ethiopia. The projects aim to reach 320,000 users in two years.

In the rural areas of Kenya, the citizens face a very common problem associated with traditional finance and hard cash. Another persistent problem in third world countries is the lack of easy access to the services of a bank. Amid these problems, the Red Cross implemented a two-year plan to furnish the ‘disaster-prone areas’ with smooth money management and financial freedom – all with the help of a smartphone.

In the new plan, credits are automatically recorded on the ledger and people can spend the earned credits on daily commodities and services.  Adam Bornstein, who works on alternative financing for the Danish Red Cross, said that after testing in parts of Kenya and Ethiopia, the program has already reaped many benefits by enabling credits from work, sales or aid infusions to be utilized for trade and expenses.

The program will be extended to the other parts of Kenya and could also be rolled out in Malawi, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, Cameroon and Papua New Guinea, with an aim to extend to 320,000 users within a span of two years.

According to the report, as part of the project, the Red Cross will also aim to improve the utilization of the USD 1 billion a year in aid distributed as cash and vouchers.

While blockchain is being leveraged to reshape the face of the economy in these countries, local banks are still skeptical about the development. However, Red Cross experts believe that the transparency of the technology will transform aid delivery. Consultant Gil said that it took 15 years for organisations “not to be scared of giving people money” instead of food and other items during disasters. “I hope it doesn’t take another 15 years to understand we need to support local economies instead of giving people cash,” she added. is committed to unbiased news and upholding journalistic codes of ethics. For more information please read our Editorial Policy here.

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New Zealand Research Suggests Economy Can Benefit from Blockchain Enterprise

New Zealand Research Suggests Economy Can Benefit from Blockchain Enterprise

A new report suggests that New Zealand’s third-largest export sector and high-tech workforce could benefit significantly from blockchain technologies.

Economic benefits

The report titled Distributed Ledgers and Blockchains: Opportunities for Aotearoa New Zealand was published by Callaghan Innovation, a state agency dedicated to innovation and research and development of “ambitious businesses of all sizes”.

In it, the agency has thoroughly examined blockchain technologies and concluded that the nation’s IT sector, which presently rakes in NZD 16 billion a year with a workforce of almost 100,000, could grow to become the “second biggest contributor to gross domestic product by 2025” should blockchain be adopted sooner than later.

Examining the present state of the nascent sector, the report reflects on the USD 20 billion raised through initial coin offerings (ICOs) since 2017, which it views as a massive opportunity for “startups, researchers and established businesses”. However, for New Zealand, companies who utilize crypto-tokens through either ICOs or operating cryptocurrency exchanges have struggled due to banking restrictions, as per the report, “urgent action is required to unblock access to basic financial services”.

It is not a biased report; it acknowledges the numerous challenges within the nascent sector, namely “new consensus mechanisms to address scalability and energy efficiency, stable coins to address volatility, or data analytics to detect and prevent criminals from laundering money on public blockchains”. That said, the report goes on to identify how this landscape is changing in order to overcome these hurdles. It does so by highlighting several projects that are underway to address these problems.

Workforce matters

According to a blog post from Callaghan Innovation, the report’s research was partially funded by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and was produced to promote the technology amongst domestic entrepreneurs and innovators.

Offering his thoughts on the report, Andy Higgs, General Manager of Strategic Partnerships at Centrality said: “Blockchain presents a huge opportunity, with over USD 11 billion raised through initial coin offerings (ICOs) in the first half of 2018. New Zealand has a chance to lead the way, thanks to our sense of fairness and social inclusiveness, to ensure all New Zealanders benefit from the full potential of blockchain and decentralization.”

With the inherently international nature of the blockchain industry, the study says that a blockchain company doesn’t have to be based in New Zealand to be able to provide work for New Zealanders. From this, it suggests that instead, it matters more where the “key personnel” are located within a distributed workforce, and should drive New Zealand to foster a world-leading workforce.


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UK Crypto to Flourish Despite Brexit Fears, Say Experts

Experts in the UK have indicated that Brexit augurs well for cryptocurrency regardless of concerns about the direction of Britain’s economy after March 2019.

UK Chancellor Philip Hammond’s August forecast that the UK could see an 87.7 percent hit to GDP and a £80 billion black hole in public finances in a no-deal scenario holds no concern for many cryptocurrency experts.

Mike Romanov, chief executive of Digital Securities Exchange (DSX) sees Brexit as a further way of the UK establishing its own rules for cryptocurrency trading which will push the sector forward, arguing that, “Britain is already looking at how it can maintain its dominance in financial services post Brexit, even as some major players abandon ship ahead of March next year.”

This is not only a positive outcome for conventional financial markets according to Romanov, but the UK taking back rulemaking could have a significant impact on the trading of digital currency. He suggests:

“As such, crypto could present a big opportunity. While the EU looks to apply regulation at an EU level, taking it out of the control of member states, Britain could be free to apply its own rules and shape itself to become a well-regulated and crypto friendly market that looks to nurture the future of this financial movement rather than eye it with an air of suspicion and cynicism.”

Cryptology’s chief commercial officer Herbert Sim also feels that bureaucracy will take a dent when Britain pulls out and that this has to be a good thing for crypto movement in the financial environment. He suggests that “…leaving the EU will give the UK decision-making capabilities on areas that the EU’s bureaucratic processes can be desperately slow to decide on.” The opening of foreign crypto markets outside of Europe will positively impact the status quo, Sim suggests. Another CEO, Iqbal Gandham from eToro, claims that any volatility from Brexit will be short-lived:

“We are already seeing crypto assets used as an alternative in less stable economies, and Brexit could spark a new wave of investment from people looking to diversify their portfolios and hedge against geopolitical risk.”

However, all these positivity comes with a warning according to Romanov who comments that Britain needs to maintain its competitive edge, “What can’t happen is for Britain to become scared of its own financial shadow and water down the investment it’s made into new technologies, all in a bid to placate the traditional financial services world.”

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IranbyBit: Bitcoin-Powered Tourism Fueling Iranian Economy

An Iranian travel startup is tackling the country’s economic sanctions and consequent financial exclusion by offering visitors to the country an opportunity to pay for their travel experience with Bitcoin.

Speaking to Bitcoin News, IranbyBit‘s founder Setare Shabanipour discussed the importance of having the option to pay with Bitcoin, and how the business is helping to grow both the tourism sector in Iran and international levels of Bitcoin adoption.

Why does Iran need a Bitcoin travel option?

Iran has been subject to economic sanctions from the US, the European Union and the United Nation Security Council in various capacities since the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Through the years, the sanctions have taken the forms of asset freezes and trade embargos, which have taken a serious toll on the country’s economy and people.

It is difficult to send and receive money from other countries while based in Iran, creating a major issue for attracting outsiders to visit the country. Shabanipour explained that tourists are not able to use credit cards, Visa or Mastercard; ”Travelers need to exchange their money to the Iranian local currency and carry cash with themselves which is a troublesome and an unpleasant experience,” she said. It also makes it difficult for international travelers to book their accommodation and events such as local tours before they enter the country. 


The premise of the Bitcoin travel body is to give travelers the opportunity to pay for these things with cryptocurrency, making booking a trip to Iran as simple as it is for any major country. ”At IranbyBit we seized the opportunity that Bitcoin provides,” Shabanipour told Bitcoin News. 

Doing its part for Iranian tourism and the economy

Iran cannot quite be called a top holiday destination right now but Shabanipour believes that by enabling foreign travelers to use Bitcoin to plan their trips, more tourists will be attracted to the country. She has high hopes about where IranbyBit can take the tourism sector: ”The more foreigners visit Iran, they can decide for themselves about the country and this can lead to a change of attitude toward Iranians in global communities and markets. Also, this can result in attracting more investors and their investments toward Iranian businesses.”

The Iranian economy could certainly use the boost that Shabanipour hopes tourism can bring after decades of financial exclusion because of international sanctions, and the cultural benefits of having foreign travelers experience the country could help break down the prejudices that Iranians face on the global stage. ”It is inevitable that cultural bridges will form among foreign and local cultures. Such a flourishing market will result in attracting investment and building up more tourism infrastructures in Iran,” Shabanipour predicted.

As she describes it, financial inclusion goes beyond just being able to purchase things in Iran in the way that now Bitcoin allows. Rather, it also means opening up Iran as a safe, fun, accessible destination for the rest of the world to experience, and she hopes to do this in a sustainable way.

”Iranbybit provides travelers and local communities the chance to communicate with each other and understand different cultures. We support the economy of local communities and pursue flourishing rural markets. We also recognize an increase in tourist demand for the countryside instead of cities, hence, a flourishing countryside decreases the rate of migrations of Iranians to big cities. Natural resources can be used as a source of income and they will be treated as treasures and preserved appropriately.”


Left to Right: Founder Kokab ”Setare” Shabanipour, Web Administrator Saeed Nasiri, Bitcoin Research and Development Manager Ziya Sadr, System Software Developer Nima Behkar


Calling for Bitcoin adoption

IranbyBit supports and uses Bitcoin because they appreciate that it removes the barriers in their way of entering the global market, and they have called for other Iranian business to do the same in order to promote economic growth. Because IranbyBit’s revenue is all coming from Bitcoin, they hope they are helping to support widescale Bitcoin adoption and development of a future economy where the reliance on fiat currency is minimal.

Shabanipour says that in Iran, Bitcoin use is a grey area; while it is not regulated by the government, the work IranbyBit do does not break any laws. Even if this changes, they truly believe in Bitcoin as a payment system and would hope to still find a legal way to accept it. ”The general opinion about Bitcoin in Iran is very positive but even if that changes, we are still going to use and support it.”

The Middle Eastern nation has a very active Bitcoin community and IranbyBit is proud to be a part of spreading the message and encouraging other business to also accept cryptocurrency for payments.

In terms of blockchain, IranbyBit does not see a useful way of integrating the technology into their business right now: ”Our main focus is on utilizing Bitcoin for our business and we don’t think that blockchain as a technology is relevant in this area. Up to now, it’s hard to imagine real-world use cases for blockchain but maybe it can have some in the future. There are very active people in this community in Iran and blockchain is possibly one of their areas of interest.”

Bitcoin getting Iranians excited

According to Shabanipour, potential customers that IranbyBit has spoken to have been very enthused about this new opportunity and plan to use their services to book their future travels in Iran. Several people they spoke with have already had experiences traveling by Bitcoin, and have given them a lot of positive feedback.

The body offers Ecolodges for those who are seeking nature-based accommodation, and Shabanipour says that it is the people who are the most adventurous travelers that are attracted to their services over anyone else.

IranbyBit uses a commission-based revenue model based on seasonal travel popularity. The agency provides substantial information on its website for each accommodation and service available for booking with Bitcoin payments, including local sim cards and tourist debit cards to help people access money and local communications.

Right now, just the first release of the website has been launched which can service over one hundred tourists. ”We have more than 20 accommodations with complete details ready to serve tourists from anywhere in the world. Once the MVP is released, IranbyBit will take its first step in the global tourism market,” Shabanipour detailed. 

To learn more about IranbyBit or use the body to book your trip to Iran, visit the website or follow them on Twitter.


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Cryptocurrency Market Decline Caused by Strengthening Dollar

A senior market analyst at eToro, Mati Greenspan, recently produced a commentary on cryptocurrency market. He argued that the recent market decline is a product of the strengthening US dollar.
As the dollar continued to perform well in recent weeks, fuelled by policies tightening the economy with the intention of preventing high inflation, the economies of emerging markets struggled to maintain the strength of their own currencies. Greenspan believes this has affected cryptocurrencies in the same way.
In the commentary that was shared with CCN, Greenspan compared the movements in the crypto market with those of local fiat currencies in emerging markets, noting that they mirror one another. While investors in these markets are choosing to invest in cryptocurrencies when their local currency is on the decline, Greenspan said that the US dollar is still the most popular reserve currency of choice.
His analysis suggests that many smaller economies rely on a stable exchange rate with the dollar, something threatened by its current appreciation. Additionally, because of its movements, there is less incentive for investors to move their capital into the digital currency market.
The value of cryptocurrencies is often regarded as unassociated with the movements of traditional commodities such as gold and oil. But in this case, they have been fluctuating in the same ways, in reaction to the surging dollar. It is common for these commodities to lose value in the face of the increasing dollar value. The digital currency market has followed suit this time.
As the past several days have seen the movement of the dollar slow down, currencies such as the lira, rand, and peso have begun to recover. As Greenspan’s analysis would suggest, so has the cryptocurrency market. Market capitalization hit USD 216 billion Friday from a Monday total of USD 190 billion.
An alternative analysis of the decline from Arthur Hayes, CEO of cryptocurrency derivatives exchange BitMEX, suggested that ICO-funded startups were cashing out capital before losing any more in another market dip.
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La Bitcoineta: Argentine Non-Profit Tackles Lack of Knowledge in Local Communities, Push for Crypto-Driven Change

As Bitcoin’s popularity and user base continue to grow, companies involved with the cryptocurrency are progressing from merely providing the infrastructure needed such as wallets and exchanges, to providing sophisticated services such as healthcare or gaming applications. With an innovative fintech sector emerging to service the cryptocurrency market, financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs have begun turning their heads, offering Bitcoin ventures such as futures trading or cryptocurrency hedgefund management.

The Bitcoin market cap at the time of press stands at USD one hundred seven billion; this significant sector still lacks international understanding, trust, and mainstream accessibility. A group of individuals based in Argentina have taken it upon themselves to liberate and educate the population of their country on Bitcoin, with the hopes of aiding sustainable economic growth via the possibilities of Bitcoin and the ensuing fintech sector.

The group has managed to create a fun, unique way of spreading the message. Pictured below is La Bitcoineta, their stylised Bitcoin education van that has taken them across the cities and towns of Argentina.

They described their objective to Bitcoin News as an ”initiative to generate bridges between those who are developing the technologies that will change the world and the different productive, social, cultural, and economic ecosystems.” The individuals in the team shared their understanding that firsthand projects can inspire new solutions, or benefit from existing technologies.

Smaller communities lacked general Bitcoin awareness

Speaking to Bitcoin News, a spokesperson for La Bitcoineta described a striking lack of awareness surrounding Bitcoin and blockchain technology in the smaller communities that they visited. Consequently, this meant that much time in these locations was spent devoted to explaining these concepts to the locals from scratch, basic education being the first step for these individuals to enter the market. Their efforts were welcomingly received; the spokesperson said ”everybody is open to the new concept and enjoys us going there.”

Bitcoin has started to make its mark in Argentina

As the spokesperson described it as surprising to some, nearly all of the smaller cities that were visited had some individuals who were knowledgeable on the subject, indicating the vast reach of Bitcoin internationally. These knowledgeable ”bitcoiners,” as they described them, shared enormous gratitude towards the team for taking the time to visit and share their knowledge with their hometown.

Is local media the answer?

The team told Bitcoin News that they have received an exponential amount of national media traction during their journey so far, with feedback for their work largely positive. They noted local media as a powerful tool in aiding their cause. Frequently La Bitcoineta would make headlines in the local newspapers and their online outlets, helping develop the regional conversation around Bitcoin and blockchain. The irony was not lost that such a traditional, established media form would come to aid this reformist cause.

Challenges and successes

The team behind La Bitcoineta see the greatest possible results of their tour as driving crypto-related change in communities that would benefit this the most, particularly in areas where individual’s efforts could be monetized or reach international markets. Through their talks, they hope to create an impact on the local fintech sector, inspiring projects, changes and pushing for a less bureaucratic government.
The biggest challenge they have faced in reaching this goal has been their ability to reach and connect with the right people. While the team has been considerably active in pushing their agenda, reaching government decision makers themselves and identifying the communities that they could positively impact the most has presented the greatest test.
Despite La Bitcoineta’s Bitcoin positivity, those behind the objective do not see it as likely, nor are they pushing for Bitcoin to be adopted as a regular payment system. This is only considered by themselves as a likely option if merchant outlets themselves incentivize cryptocurrency spending through a discounted alternative to fiat.
Instead, the biggest fruitful challenge they see is pursuing Bitcoin to be a globally recognized store of value and a better alternative medium of exchange. The impending fight against banks and governments is their biggest concerns for reaching this, but they are confident the cryptocurrency driven change they envision will be achieved.
La Bitcoineta’s journey can be followed on both Twitter and Facebook.
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