One of the central and deeply counter-intuitive facts about innovation has been, that, despite benefiting almost everyone (especially over the long stretches of time), it tends to benefits the poorest members of humanity the most, if it is allowed to (sorry, North Korea and Cuba). Agricultural revolutions and the modern channels of food distribution (including the marvel of standardized containers) probably enriched the tables of the rich but they allowed to almost eradicate hunger and malnoushishment, except in the regions where very poor institutions. Modern aviation allowed the wealthy to travel faster but it gave hundreds of millions of humans the opportunity to travel long distances for the first time in history.

Blockchain technology is, without doubt, highly innovative, but the predominant narrative about it has been that it has so far mostly been a toy and a tool for enrichment for well-educated mostly male geeks and people who were fortunate to be influenced by ones.  

The recently published Digital 2019 annual report by Hootsuite (as summarized by Breaker) strongly suggests that that story is, at best, incomplete. Digital 2019 is devoted to highlighting how people all over the world use the Internet, social media, e-commerce and mobile devices. Part of the report briefly touches upon the cryptocurrency space but provides a very important and promising piece of evidence.

The indicator cited is the percentage of Internet users by country who report owning cryptocurrency. What would come as a surprise to many people, there are only two developed countries in the top ten: Austria (7.2%) and Switzerland (7%), and they occupy the last two spots. The five frontrunners are South Africa (10.7%), Thailand (9.9%), Indonesia (9.5%), Vietnam (9.3%) and Brazil (8.2%). The worldwide average is 5.5%, and the U. S. is slightly below it at 5.3%.

With the caveat that self-reporting may, in theory, be unreliable, what this (together with the story of Bitcoin in Venezuela) suggests is that blockchain technology is primarily embraced for essential needs in relatively poor countries rather than the rich ones. Banking the unbanked through the blockchain may not be that much of an empty slogan or pipe dream, after all.


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