5 Ways Crypto is Doing Good in 2018 and Beyond
There have been plenty of opinions about the real value of cryptocurrencies. For some, it’s the replacement for fiat currency. Others see immense value in cryptocurrency’s ability to store value and function as an investment asset. Some have focused instead on the technology side, touting blockchain as a great leap forward towards how we create applications to better serve people. In this last regard, the crypto industry has become a great equalizer.
Blockchain’s architecture—a decentralized and democratic mesh-like network—means that it eschews traditional structures that its centralized counterparts must abide by. For instance, the lack of centralization means that there is no need for intermediaries in most applications, as interactions can be handled on a peer-to-peer basis. It also allows more users to connect to important services (in the process meeting one of bitcoin’s original goals of ‘banking the unbanked’), as well as offering equal access to all.
Most importantly, blockchain delivers opportunity, both to developers and to users. While 2017 was the year during which fascination with cryptocurrencies entered the mainstream, 2018 will see blockchain act as a serious catalyst for improvement in several arenas. Moreover, it will help foster an infrastructure that could change how technology is used for many years beyond. Blockchain has already left behind a substantial footprint in these cases and is poised for an even bigger breakout in the near future.
Venezuela’s Crypto Embrace Lets Everyone Pay for Goods
Despite being the most oil-rich country in the world, Venezuela finds itself in the uncommon position of having a currency that has lost nearly 96% of its value and inflation that has surpassed 4,000% in the past year alone. To resolve this ongoing crisis, the Venezuelan government took another uncommon approach by turning to blockchain. On one hand, the government introduced its own cryptocurrency—the Petro—which is supposedly pegged to oil prices and exchangeable for US Dollars. The reception and results of this have been mixed at best so far.
On the other hand, however, officials have instructed all businesses to accept any cryptocurrencies as payment. This is a major move for cryptos, and one of the first in the world. As a result, ex-patriate Venezuelans will finally be able to send money to their families in the country, and citizens will be able to pay for services without having to wait for days to simply withdraw cash from banks.
The UN Deploys Blockchain to Boost Sustainability
The rise of the internet, which was meant to create a more equitable and open world, has managed to achieve the exact opposite. One of blockchain’s biggest use cases is developing more transparent systems and networks thanks to its distributed ledger technology. Applications built on the technology are based on shared ledgers, which are available for all users to review in real-time and nearly impossible to forge or manipulate.
Now, however, the UN is taking a hard look at employing blockchain to expand its efforts and meet sustainable development goals. Some potential use cases considered as early as two years ago were the use of blockchain to improve government transparency and justice as well as offer a more global identification system that could give legal identity for unempowered citizens in developing countries. More recently, crypto wallet Blockchain announced its intention to partner with the UN to explore several uses for blockchain on a global and governmental level. This could open the doors to better governance, more empowered citizenry, and better democracies.
While many people still associate blockchain and cryptocurrencies with finance, the technology has spread much out than its creators could have imagined. Today, blockchain has several use cases in multiple industries, and serves as a major catalyst for disruption. Most vitally, however, blockchain’s ability to level the playing field has helped empower traditionally under-served groups—even in the developed world—to obtain better deals than they’ve been getting until now.
For consumers worldwide, this involves a variety of fields with important implications. User data is a highly monetized asset today, but one users themselves are typically barred from controlling. Solutions like Datawallet offer individuals the ability to retake control and reap the revenues of their identities on their own terms.
Others focus on the consumer-merchant relationship, like HotNow. The company’s HoToKenplatform enables retailers and businesses to offer location-based promotions and deals to users without having to use intermediaries like Groupon, Shopee, and LiveSocial. By removing intermediaries, it empowers consumers by delivering better deals and rewards for participating all whilst giving businesses more control over their retail insights and providing better engagement tools.
Reaching the Unbanked and Under-served
Money constantly moves between institutions and accounts, from bank to bank and computer to computer. The one place it doesn’t reach though is the hands of those who need it most—small business owners and the under-served populations in the developing world. For many, access to financing, either for business or simply subsistence, is hard to come by. Even so, blockchain-based startups have started developing possible solutions.
Singapore-based MicroMoney, for instance, is seeking to create a microfinancing and banking solution to reach as many of the nearly 2 billion unbanked people across the globe. The company already offers unsecured social lending to consumers in Asia and is looking to expand its reach. By providing access to financial services, blockchain is helping disenfranchised individuals in the developing world uncover the services they need. The company, and others like it, are able to provide these services because of their significantly leaner business models and lower overheads.
Enabling Small Businesses
For many in developing nations, creating a business is a complex and sometimes nearly impossible process. Entrepreneurs must face difficult bureaucracies, limited access to funding, and technological complications before even arriving at the launch. Blockchain, which has been proven to be a boon for small businesses, could help make the process significantly easier.
There are already several startups that have embraced blockchain to provision services that are vital to most communities, but many times lacking. In Ghana, for example, companies like BitLand are working to advance better systems for citizens to protect their land ownership. Similarly, The Sun Exchange (based in South Africa) is a marketplace to purchase solar cells for home, commercial, and community use, and is built entirely on blockchain. These businesses avoid the fraught terrain that is government and bureaucracy in their countries, creating more accessible systems for all stakeholders.
Even as the focus remains on cryptocurrencies’ monetary value, the real engine behind the craze—blockchain—continues to show the real potential of the technology. As more people find better ways to integrate it with vital services and use it empower their communities, countries, and even the world, blockchain is destined to become a crucial aspect of future innovation.