Why you should care
If you’re a human on Earth, bitcoin probably affects you in some way.
Even if you’ve been following the dramatic Greek bailout talks closely, one story has flown somewhat under the mainstream radar, moving mostly in younger, tech-savvy circles (read: Reddit) and niche sites. In the midst of the euro potentially falling apart, bitcoin came out of the shadows. While the Greece bailout talks were one of the most defining moments for modern Europe, there are other, more unexpected, places that bitcoin is climbing into use and acceptance. From the world’s oldest profession to the continent with the biggest economic potential, OZY has the cybercurrency scoops not being talked about.
Six years after its release, the digital currency has crept into the nether regions of the global economy — the multibillion-dollar sex industry. Bitcoin is now a payment option at escort ad services like Backpage and Luxury Escorts International, while a small but growing number of independent escorts consider it a currency of choice. Their reasons vary. Liara Roux (that’s her nom de biz) had long nursed an interest in cryptography, and when she began escorting, “accepted bitcoin right from the get-go.” Another “elite international companion” tells OZY that bitcoin doesn’t necessarily save her in transaction costs, but that she accepts bitcoin “as a courtesy and for its international appeal.” Read more here.
The key characteristics of this digital cash also happen to make it a great fit for people who aren’t so down with advanced digital technology: the 326 million Africans who lack access to basic banking services. This isn’t such a crazy idea. Mobile payments that work on standard-feature phones have already made strong inroads in Africa, with 16 percent of Africans using the services. The largest provider of such payments, M-Pesa, already operates in Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa, as well as India and Afghanistan. But if you are a member of the large and expanding African diaspora and you want to send money home to grandma or the hubby left behind, you can’t count on mobile payments. M-Pesa, for instance, lets foreign-dwelling folks send money through a partnership with Western Union — but the latter tends to charge onerous fees. Which makes bitcoin very appealing, if you can get past the expensive exchange rate (currently, one bitcoin is worth roughly $277). Read more here.
On a single Saturday morning, the 70,000 inhabitants of this small Caribbean island will receive $10 worth of bitcoins, the digital currency, to use at their own discretion. The project is the brainchild of Coinapult, a for-profit company based in Panama that provides the technology needed for the mobile “drop” and has the support of the local government. Other sponsors, including bitcoin-friendly Aspen Assurance and the educational nonprofit College Cryptocurrency Network, are also backing the project. Their goal is to create, in a single day, the largest and highest-density bitcoin community on the planet. It’s an experiment to test whether the digital currency could actually become a widely used medium of exchange in a single economy, even as it’s proven to be volatile and risky elsewhere. Read more here.