As Singapore is emerging as a regional Bitcoin hub and attracting more and more venture capital investments from the West, its neighbors, Indonesia and the Philippines, are following the city-state's pace and initiating ambitious projects striving to bring Bitcoin to the locals.
Bitcoin now available in 10,000 Indonesian convenient stores
Indonesia's leading Bitcoin exchange Bitcoin Indonesia recently announced a partnership with payment processor iPaymu, the largest chain of franchised convenient stores in the country. The deal will enable residents to buy bitcoins over the counter at over 10,000 'Indomaret' convenience stores.
The partnership comes with the promise of providing one of the easiest methods to buy bitcoins with Indonesia rupiahs. The system works through a "top-up" mechanism and requires users to open an account at Bitcoin Indonesia. After selecting the top-up option, they will be given a unique code, which will be requested by the Indomaret store when depositing cash. The amount will then be automatically converted into bitcoins and credited to their accounts.
20% of Indonesia's population is unbanked, according to the World Bank, and the collaboration between Bitcoin Indonesia and iPaymu aims to make Bitcoin available to the masses, Bitcoin Indonesia co-founder Oscar Darmawan told CoinDesk.
Bitcoin Indonesia began operating last December, with a daily trading volume of 5 BTC. When the exchange launched its full open-order exchange in May 2014, it was progressing approximately 30 BTC in trades daily, illustrating Bitcoin's gain in popularity in Indonesia.
On September 1, Coin Academy announced the launch of the first comprehensive digital currency education site.
Coin Academy offers courses covering numerous facets of digital currencies, all free of charge. Among the available topics, there are Bitcoin for beginners, Bitcoin for merchants, as well as courses about security fundamentals and popular altcoins such as Litecoin, Dogecoin, Ripple, NXT and Peercoin.
Co-founder Stephen DeMeulenaere said digital currencies suddenly emerged, and yet, the education and training markets have not kept up with the pace of innovation:
"We found a number of good tutorials and interviews on the web, but we found a lot more poorly produced unprofessional pieces. [...] The sudden emergence of digital currencies, like Bitcoin, left the education and training market struggling to keep up."
DeMeuleneare stressed that regarding the complexity of the cryptocurrency world, it was crucial for people to find the relevant information before entering into the ecosystem:
"Security is more critical with financial transactions than with other forms of data, and people simply need more information in order to make informed decisions."
Co-founder Ric Shreves said that Coin Academy aims to gather the best educational resources available on the Internet, as well as creating original and accurate content:
"Until the launch of Coin Academy, there was no single place people where could learn about digital currencies. Resources were scattered about, from YouTube, to Vimeo, to individual websites. It's in everyone's best interest that this information be easily available. [...] We've made the resource free and we've done our best to create materials that take complex topics and make them accessible to a broad audience."
DeMeulenaere is an alternative economics expert with more than 20 years of experience in digital currencies based in Bali, Indonesia. Shreves is a web developer and author of numerous books on open source technology, based in Singapore.
The Philippines introducing its first Bitcoin ATM
Caption: Satoshi Cital Industrie co-founders John Bailon, Nick Galan, Jardine Gerodias and Miguel Cuneta Image Credit: TechinAsia]
The country is now equipped with a Skyhook Bitcoin ATM, which charges a 3% fee on top of the sell price listed on Filipino Bitcoin exchange CoinXchange. Skyhook was launched in May 2014, and is the world's first low-priced, portable and open-source Bitcoin ATM, allowing one-way transactions.
According to Bitmarket's director of marketing and public relations Sabina Lopez-Vergara, the company isn't hoping to make money from its use, but rather increase Bitcoin awareness in the Philippines:
"Our goal is adoption and education. [...] With Bitmarket.ph, we are trying to create the market for users to spend their [bitcoins]. But how do they get [bitcoins]? The ATM eliminates the hassle of having to deal with an exchange and trekking to the bank to make a deposit. With this ATM, anyone with a Bitcoin wallet can buy [bitcoins]. It's as simple as just going up to a vending machine and purchasing food."
The ATM is currently located in Bitmarket's office in Makati City. The team estimates that about a hundred users have already purchased bitcoins with the machine.
The device was first exhibited at a local meetup, but encountered technical difficulties. Bitmarket plans to bring the ATM to the next one, scheduled on September 6.
The machine will be showcased at several locations, including "weekend markets, bazaars, and merchant locations," said Lopez-Vergara. The executive hopes the machine will "create curiosity, awareness, and eventually, positive acceptance."
Bitmarket is owned by local enterprise Satoshi Citadel Industries. The company wants to be established as "the Bitcoin authority in the country," said Lopez-Vergara. She added:
"As a purely local venture, we are hoping to be considered [through] leaders in the Bitcoin space."
Digital currencies are making their way through Southeast Asia, and Asian startups are initiating projects in order to bring the advantages of the technology to the residents, while keeping in mind the needs and habits of the population.
Along with Coin Academy, DeMeulenaere and Shreves are working on the implementation of a Ripple gateway in Indonesia, which we covered in this article.
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