Throughout history, methods of sharing and access to information have undergone many changes. The Internet has managed to open access to all, everywhere, to virtually all the information available in the world. Internet is human knowledge just a click away.
More recently, blockchains have appeared in the innovation landscape. Yet from a technological point of view, the blockchain is not innovative: no invention, no patent has been filed. The blockchain was born from the ingenious combination of existing technologies and processes: peer-to-peer (which connects users without a central server), cryptography (developed by the military) and the telecom network. A blockchain is simply a string of virtual information (the blocks) put together, forming a tamper-proof registry that traces the transaction history: this new type of registry upsets the value transfer codes.
Is cryptocurrency the answer to financial inclusion problems? When Bitcoin began to gain notoriety, one of the selling points of cryptocurrency was that it could help bank non-bankers. According to the World Bank, around 1.7 billion people do not have access to regular bank accounts in 2017.
These people are largely from southern continents such as Asia and Africa. For them, money remains king. By not having a bank account, these people remain excluded from the traditional realms, creating a perpetual system of economic disparities.
Can cryptocurrency solve these problems? Why are people still not banked?
There are many problems that prevent so many people from participating financially. A large part of the world’s population is still not banked and is largely due to economic difficulties.
800 million people still live on less than $ 5 a day, which means that many people have access to a bank is useless. The cost of creating a bank account is cited as another problem for many.
Other infrastructure issues complicate the situation. 22% of people live too far from a bank to travel. In many countries where government infrastructure is lacking, this means that it is difficult to obtain essential documents such as a passport or a birth certificate necessary to obtain a bank account.
None of these problems are particularly new or surprising. There is a clear lack of efforts on the part of banks to solve these problems precisely because their main objective is profit. Banks do not see in their balance sheet the returns needed to help these people.
For many crypto-currencies, however, the question of profit is not apparent. Of course, people can earn wealth through the Bitcoin price increase, but no company or person owns the currency, unlike a bank.
How can cryptocurrency help?
The use of cryptocurrencies can help alleviate some of the problems above. Unlike a bank, there is a very low entry barrier. Yes, while Bitcoin may seem inaccessible at certain prices, you can still buy a fraction of a Bitcoin for $ 5 and send it to anyone, anywhere – as long as they have a Bitcoin wallet.
Bitcoin could solve many of the problems that banks have left at the side of the road, but is it?
Has cryptocurrency helped so far?
There are some examples of cryptocurrencies to help those who need it. The disastrous economic situation of Venezuela at the moment has led many citizens to turn to cryptocurrency as an alternative. Bitcoin and Dash are popular. They are used as a means of protecting wealth but also for daily payments.
Crypto exchange Huobi has stated their goals by helping to provide trading services to the non-bank bank in Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
UN research has also suggested that cryptocurrency could become a new frontier for Africa, with a high interest in the continent. However, there are still problems. Many predators have also targeted the south of the world by promising vast riches for their scams. This could hinder the growth of long-term cryptocurrencies.
While each of the above examples is encouraging, Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies still have not managed to get mass adoption. Price volatility combined with mainstream skepticism is two factors.
Since their creation, cryptocurrencies have solved the problems of financial inclusion only in a relatively small way. The pursuit of the adoption of southern education in the world will be essential.
There is certainly the possibility that cryptocurrencies can help solve the problems of financial inclusion. The tools are there to succeed and the banks have left this issue under the rug for too long.
While Bitcoin aims to destroy the fiduciary money system, there are other noble goals. The financial inclusion of the huge number of people left without a bank is one of them. Time will tell if any of the goals are met.