Research on digital payments outside banking systems

Access to digital currency is one of the most fundamental need in today’s world. It leads to all sorts of freedoms that we take for granted such as freely traveling anywhere, transacting with organizations across the world etc. Most of us have access to digital currencies through our banks but banks are notoriously inefficient in serving remote areas and economically weaker areas of the world. This leaves out millions of unbanked people in world, without any access to digital currencies. This is not likely to change, hence our research focusses on looking at solutions to digital currencies outside the banking system.

We broke the problem statement into two parts. One was about digital currencies outside the banking systems and the other about informal currencies that are used for transactions at local level.

We found two very distinct examples of digital currencies outside the banking systems. One was bitcoins, a decentralized currency. And second was private currencies owned in the form of points or miles etc by private corporations.

Depending on what resources you already possess there can be multiple ways to get bitcoins. In all these cases you need to have a bitcoin wallet. There are many could wallet services that let you create an account, all they need is a valid email id and they give you a pubic key through which you can start accepting and spending bitcoins. If you have a bank account you can buy bitcoins from the market just like any other commodity. If you want to exchange cash for bitcoins you’ll either have to go to a bitcoin ATM (you need a valid state id for this) or you can find a friend who might be interested in giving you bitcoins for cash.

The purchasing power of bitcoins is increasing. Many retailer across your spectrum of needs are signing up to accept bitcoin payments.

We also looked at some sharing economy based solutions for purchasing goods and services without having a bank account.

There are several examples of small scale analog solutions to payments, that we see in our local communities.

Of all the solutions it was the private currencies that looked most accessible for everyone across the world. As bitcoin struggles with adoption, internet has already reached the most remote parts of the world and so have private currencies like amazon gift cards. As Amazon includes more and more goods and services under its umbrella, its gift cards may very well become the bearer of a huge chunk of transactions online.

In the short-term, private currencies can be a very important means of buying goods and services for the unbanked populations of the world.

 

– Done by Daniella and Shivanku

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