Companies see bitcoin’s potential in PH

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Sunday, August 24, 2014


THOUGH its uses are more popular in the United States and developed countries, many are seeing a high potential for bitcoins to be exchanged in emerging markets.

Bitcoin is described as an “innovative payment network and a new kind of money,”
according to Bitcoin.org. It uses peer-to-peer technology to operate, with no central authority or banks. Managing transactions and the issuing of bitcoins is carried out by a network. It is also open-source and its design is public, which means nobody owns or controls it.

Opportunities for bitcoins was one of the topics at the Geeks on a Beach conference held at the Mövenpick Hotel Mactan Island last Friday.

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Not many know how bitcoins can be exchanged or used but Nick Sullivan of ChangeCoin believes that with time, more people will appreciate using bitcoins to purchase things online. He added that with many overseas Filipinos sending their money back to the Philippines, they will appreciate using bitcoins.

He said he is excited to see now the Bitcoin exchange plays out in the Philippines, noting that 10 percent of the country’s GDP come from remittances. He added that the Filipino culture of being highly social and friendly makes the exchange of Bitcoin
ideal.

He said when more people begin using bitcoins, it could change the world of finance.

Credit card

Antony Lewis of itBIT agreed, pointing out that while the Philippines has a high penetration of social media, it has a low credit card penetration. He believes the introduction of Bitcoin into the Philippines will have a greater impact because of this, unlike the more developed countries that have a wider access to financial services.

Among emerging markets, they said the Philippines is ahead in Bitcoin trade, as it
already has four Bitcoin exchange companies.

Ron Hose, co-founder and CEO of Coins.ph, believes bitcoins address the disparity in access to traditional banking services. He noted that only a few in the Philippines have access to formal banking services and he believes this is not going to change any time soon.

“Traditional banking is expensive. It allocates resources for tellers, trucks and branches. Bitcoin can be a solution. With just a mobile phone, you can transact without the logistics that traditional banks need,” he said.

He added that transactions using bitcoins can push through without intermediary bodies, thus eliminating extra charges.

Sam Kaddoura, CEO and co-founder of BuyBitcoin.ph, said that those who do not want to go through the hassle of opening bank accounts or pass the requirements for credit cards will embrace bitcoins. He also believes the Filipinos can introduce to use of bitcoins to other places because of its OFWs. He cited the high Filipino population in the Middle East, which is not among the countries that have high Bitcoin use.

For now, they see micropayment infrastructure for the web as a good way to introduce the use of Bitcoin.

Mainstream

Kaddoura admitted that it may take a long time for Bitcoin to become a mainstream mode of payment for most but believes there is a bright future for it and that it would do wonders for financial inclusion. He said what they need is to educate the public about its benefits and who things can be made easier.

Currently, he said what some hear about Bitcoin are the negative reports, such as its use in indecent and illegal activity. “Cash is still the number one vehicle for drug trade, not Bitcoin. So, it takes a lot of education,” he said.

Sullivan believes it will stabilize as more people start using it in transactions.

He said there are many ways it can be used, other than for additional perks for online games and online shopping. He said it can be offered as a way to donate to charities, give small payments to those who produce content “that deserve more than a like,” as tips to those who have provided good customer support and fundraising.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 25, 2014.

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