This Article was published on NOVEMBER 5, 2014 on Bitcoin Magazine
What if colleges and universities around the world had clubs dedicated to cryptocurrency where students could learn about emerging technologies and get in frequent communication with each other?
This is already happening. And membership is not limited to college students.
It’s called the College Cryptocurrency Network (CCN).
Through the help of the CCN, different members from four different continents have shared some valuable information about the status of Bitcoin in their local areas.
Additionally, we’ll learn more about the Bitcoin Against Ebola Campaign, which the CCN is taking part in.
In Australia, there are more and more merchants beginning to accept bitcoin.
Here’s what James Eddington from CCN Melbourne about it.
“Here in Melbourne, we’re seeing a lot of interesting Bitcoin related projects happening behind the scenes. We’ve got a local documentary being filmed, a growing merchant ecosystem being helped along by Coinjar, DCPOS and BitPos, and a tech savvy group of venture capitalists leading the first dedicated investment fund for Bitcoin companies and startups.”
The recent ATO ruling has put a slight dampener on public interest for the currency, but those involved are working as hard as ever to make things happen. CCN is starting to establish connections and grow, and has big aims for growth in 2015.
James is working hard creating a CCN presence in Melbourne, putting together a free bitcoin event in Melbourne featuring big names in the bitcoin space, and writing articles about bitcoin.
“For me,” James concludes, “I see Bitcoin fuelling the vibrant and energetic community which already exists here, getting people involved with cryptocurrency and its underlying principles. Bitcoin is a great introduction to some of the privacy and contemporary economic issues we as a society face. If more people become educated about that, then it becomes a powerful tool for keeping the system in check, whether that’s Internet businesses, social networks, banks or intellectual property.”
In Kenya, Bitcoin adoption hasn’t picked up at the rate it has in Australia, but it is very likely to catch on, as many Kenyans are already accustomed to utilizing mobile payment systems.
Gibson Juma from Kenya told me more about the situation. He’s African Regional Representative of CCN, representing the Kenyatta University Chapter. Gibson is the cofounder of a Bitcoin startup called Bitsoko.
“Bitcoin technology is pretty confusing to the average guy here, but most university students understand it. Students on campus are very enthusiastic about cryptocurrency. There’s a CCN chapter in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, at Kenyatta University. We will be holding our first interuniversity meetup on the 28th of August. Some attending universities include M=ount Kenya University, Nairobi University and a United States International University, in addition to 12 other schools that I have approached.
We have hosted two bitcoin meetups in Kenya so far and will have our third on the 28th of November. Our last meetup was in conjunction with the African Digital Currency Association on the 16th of September we had over 40 people in attendance. Also in attendance were other Bitcoin-related companies such as BitPesa and bitX.
Bitcoin is very new but more and more people are discovering it. I believe Kenyans will embrace Bitcoin just as they have embraced mobile money using Mpesa. They have always been comfortable with digital money.
We have had meetups that help spread information about Bitcoin and also gave away some free bitcoins. Locally there isn’t enough Bitcoin going around, but enabling people [to] buy airtime and data bundles using our Bitcoin app Bitsoko will go a long way in spreading the word.”
In Argentina, as I imagine most of you know, the economic situation is extremely volatile and unstable.
I spoke to Ramiro Gamen, in Argentina. He’s the Regional Director for Latin America of the CCN. This guy had a lot to say.
“Inflation in Argentina [is] rising exponentially, government spending is still causing an unsustainable deficit, and foreign currency reserves are running extremely low. Prices are soaring and credit card use is being suspended at an increasing number of retail stores. Unemployment is rising and queues are getting longer and longer everywhere.
Bitcoin can revolutionize many areas of our economy for the better, but I’ll focus on the 3 most important in my opinion:
- Payment method: faster transactions means shorter queues. No chargebacks and low fees allows merchants to offer better products at better prices. As Bitcoin allows for a cashless transaction, merchants are able to keep a low volume of physical currency at their stores, increasing security.
- Storage of Value: even with Bitcoin’s volatility, it still serves as a better storage of value than the Argentine Peso. Whoever is bullish with respect to Bitcoin will also see that saving in this asset instead of dollars, property or bonds (as many do here, specially property) will result in a larger ROI in the long term (5-10 years)
- Access to Foreign Currencies and Foreign Accounts: Bitcoin allows Argentines to move assets from Peso to Dollar in an easy and legal manner. As you may know, the government puts lots of regulations on accessing foreign currencies, making it almost impossible for the population to buy it legally, meaning we all must access “cuevas” (caves) where dollars and euros are sold at the “blue” or parallel rate (around 70% higher than the official rate)
Argentina’s Bitcoin Community has been, since the currency’s global breakout around 2011, pioneering the Bitcoin Industry. Latin America’s strongest exchanges have been created in our country, as well as many other businesses and consultants which call Argentina their home. According to the number of downloads in the QT Wallet and other public records, there are around 60-80 thousand users, although it is hard to say how many of those actually transact daily in BTC. Moreover, more and more stores are beginning to accept BTC payments through several Bitcoin processors, some of which are local.
The Bitcoin Embassy Buenos Aires is another example of the growing Bitcoin community in Argentina. Although there are still details that must be finished with regards to the infrastructure, the Embassy will hold a large number of freelancers and start ups – several are already operating within it. Seminars and workshops are held weekly.”
Ramiro has done both voluntary and entrepreneurial work in the bitcoin community.
“As far as volunteer work, I’ve co-founded the University of San Andrés Bitcoiners, the first official Bitcoin Student Organization in the country, which led me to start collaborating with the College Cryptocurrency Network.
The team has been working on bringing Bitcoin to top business and information technology conferences. We’re bringing Bitcoin to the Ekoparty Security Conference, Latin America’s largest and most popular Systems Security Convention; Red Innova Camp, where we’ll be holding a Bitcoin Hackathon; ECON 2014, University of Buenos Aires’ International Economics and Management Conference and the Latin American Bitcoin Conference in Rio de Janeiro in December.
As an entrepreneur, I’m the co-founder and CEO of BillBit, a Payment Processor and POS interface which focuses on helping the unbanked accept Bitcoin as payments for goods and services. It’s progressing rapidly. We have requests from many businesses for testing our beta app, from Buenos Aires, Mendoza and Mar del Plata, meaning the BTC community is definitely not constrained to the capital.”
Daniel Bloch, an urban farmer and the co-founder of CCN, lives in Michigan. He is the coordinator of Bitcoin meetups throughout Metro Detroit, where the number of attendees is growing each week.
Bitcoin activity varies from city to city in the US, but there is much involvement in Ann Arbor, Michigan as well as Detroit, which neighbors a city called Windsor in Ontario, Canada.
Daniel has recently successfully planned the Detroit Bitcoin Expo for October 27th and is putting together a group to launch the Detroit/Windsor International Bitcoin Center.
He tells me a little more about what’s going on with Bitcoin in his vicinity.
“The rate at which Bitcoin awareness and adoption is spreading throughout Michigan is astounding. Each week in Detroit more people attend the meetups with a plan on how Bitcoin can improve their business or service. Since Windsor, Canada is a bridge away from Detroit, many Canadian bitcoin enthusiasts are coming to Detroit more often. They are excited about being able to use bitcoins rather than their national currencies; they wouldn’t have to worry about exchange rates.
Also, an Immigrant support charity called Latino Family Services in the Metro Detroit Area is restructuring its business model to allow remittance services back to their countries using bitcoins. My hope is for Bitcoin to be the fuel for Detroit to rise from the ashes as a technology hub for the region that attracts startups, artists, innovators, and anyone else who want[s] to be a part of the energy of change.“
The CCN has announced that they are uniting their network to help fight Ebola alongside the Beam and Sierra Leone Liberty Group (SLLG).
“We’re currently putting our network together and starting the first united CCN campaign, which all chapters will be a part of,” says Daniel. “Only an estimated 15 percent of Leonies have bank accounts. Fortunately, over 80 percent of citizens have access to phones and effectively, mobile cash,” he adds.
Beam, a Ghanian remittance company, will be partnering with a service calledSplash Mobile to allow conversion of Bitcoins into mobile cash. This will allow anyone with Internet access and bitcoins to provide relief during this crisis.
By converting the donated bitcoins, Beam is providing SLLG the mobile money services they need to supply food to quarantined homes, medical equipment to hospitals, and any other aid necessary for halting the spread of Ebola.
The name of this initiative is the Bitcoin Against Ebola campaign. Check out the website and donate here.
The CCN will be spreading awareness of this initiative at their upcoming events. They are still currently looking for additional sponsors; visit the CCN website here. You can get in touch with someone by going to the Contact section.
On different points on the globe, distant friends are being made as Bitcoin and the CCN allow young people help each other to build a better future.