With billionaires, millionaires, and tech-savvy millennials acting as the face of Bitcoin, questions have been asked about who the digital currency market is for. Is it the exclusive realm of the rich and powerful? The answer to that is no, but it’s not always easy understanding that Bitcoin has intentions that stretch far beyond that of class and hierarchy.
Led by the Young
The statistics don’t lie, as Bitcoin has skyrocketed in popularity as its price shot up during the backend of 2017. It’s also pretty clear that, given its digital nature, Bitcoin resonates most with youthful, upper middle-class, technology-minded individuals. This is at least the cast in the US, but around the world this demographic actually tends to skew in a different direction.
Forgetting the “30 Under 30”-esque crowd for a moment, it’s not just the huge price boom of Bitcoin that is making it appeal to the masses. Access to technology is actually the determining factor when it comes to Bitcoin use, as without it Bitcoin is useless. But, unlike ten or twenty years ago, technology access is actually pretty prevalent throughout the world. Even in third-world countries, smartphone use isn’t uncommon. When you understand that, you can start to further understand the global reach that Bitcoin has. Apps like Coinbase allow anyone to buy and sell cryptocurrency via an app that’s free to download and use. So, to buy Bitcoin all you effectively need is a smartphone and a debit or credit card.
Does this make Bitcoin the world’s first truly global currency? It’s hard to argue against that way of thinking.
Boosting Lower Class Nations
In countries where the economic structure has collapsed, Bitcoin mining has become very popular as a means for struggling citizens to generate money. The comeback on mining is often much higher than what a regular job would pay. Venezuela is a prime example of a country that is effectively saving itself through Bitcoin mining pools.
Several times in the past we’ve looked at Venezuela’s struggling economy, as it’s locked in a state of hyperinflation. Families in the country are living on strict rations, covering items like toothpaste and bread. There have even been reports of zoo animals being slaughtered for meat, as the battle against overwhelming poverty rages on. Venezuela has one utility left that’s available in abundance, and that’s electricity. Subsidized by the government to make it incredibly cheap, many Venezuelans are now taking advantage. With subsidized electricity available, it makes it easy to lend computing power to Bitcoin mining pools. Those that do head down this road can earn BTC for their efforts.
Another example of how Bitcoin is helping turn around the fortunes of a struggling nation is Zimbabwe. Much like in Venezuela, Bitcoin’s popularity in Zimbabwe has skyrocketed for a number of reasons. Due to the lack of physical cash in the country, the nation relies heavily on imported currencies, including USD. However, in the absence of physical cash and the lack of the Zimbabwean dollar, Bitcoin has risen in prominence in the eyes of both the government and the public.
Speaking on the growth Bitcoin in Zimbabwe, a leading cryptocurrency expert said, “It looks like people trust bitcoin more than anything else to maintain the value of their money. That is what’s propelling the price.”
Making it Work
Cryptocurrency – specifically Bitcoin – is breathing new life into several struggling countries. Yet, it’s import to note that it’s not the same story everywhere. Once again, no technology access means no Bitcoin, so some countries can’t make it work by sheer circumstance. There have been other reasons mooted for Bitcoin’s lack of lift off too, Bill Gates feels the anonymity of Bitcoin creates a problem, “The poor shouldn’t have a currency whose value goes up and down a lot compared to their local currency. Second is that if a mistake is made in who you pay then you need to be able to reverse it so anonymity wouldn’t work.”
Gates does believe that there is hope for cryptocurrency in third-world countries, citing Kenya as an example, “In Kenya M-pesa is being used for almost half of all transactions. Digital money has low transaction costs which is great for the poor because they need to do financial transactions with small amounts of money. Over the next five years I think digital money will catch on in India and parts of Africa and help the poorest a lot.”
While the rich tend to have the biggest voice within the crypto sphere, there is no denying that its impact is far-reaching. Many countries depend on wire transfers and Western Union as a means to transfer money, which is expensive due to higher fees. Bitcoin presents a low cost and altogether safe alternative. There is a feeling that digital currency can aid the poor, and the signs prove that there is something to this.
It might be in its extremely formative stages, but for low-income countries, Bitcoin could present a viable alternative to the often hard to source and expensive to use standard currencies. However, it’s not just the fees that make using Bitcoin is such countries viable. While this may feel like a sweeping generalization, many African and South American nations, while economically unsteady, are also rife with corruption. Removing paper currencies out of the equation and leaning on Bitcoin’s secure and anonymous nature could help reduce corruption.
Bitcoin is Making the World Better!
You’ll have seen the term “Bitcoin is for the rich, not the masses” plastered around a lot lately. Yet, in many ways, it’s a false statement. Yes, the rich heads up the crypto hierarchy, but Bitcoin is still doing plenty to aid those less fortunate throughout the world. It might sound hammy to say, but Bitcoin isn’t just for the rich, it really is for the greater good.