Published in El Pais, 19 February 2019.
By now you should be familiar with the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, but many still do not see a point in using it instead of your own fiat currency. While there is certainly a legitimate argument for that, many living in dire economic situations can no longer imagine a world without the famous digital asset.
Probably the most famous example would be the situation in Venezuela with the rampant protests, the shortage of food and of course the hyper inflation of the Bolivar. Having already gone through a couple iterations to combat inflation (the latest version, the Bolivar Soberano coming as recently as last year), the Bolivar continues to plummet against the U.S dollar. In 2016 the largest denomination available was $100 despite something as little as a cup of coffee costing as much as $2000. Shops started to weigh money rather than count it as a basket full of money was required to pay for basic necessities. Past countries experiencing hyperinflation such as the Weimar Republic usually unofficially adopted a stronger currency such as the US dollar but the Venezuelans have decided to do things differently buy adopting Bitcoin into their economy.
Last week the country saw almost $9 million worth of Bitcoin exchange hands and there is no sign that it is slowing down. Bitcoin ATMs are becoming more common place and the advancement in special digital wallets are making spending the digital asset easier than before. Of course, this makes them vulnerable to the volatility to the price but Bitcoin is less of a risk compared to their fiat currency is just as volatile or more.
Venezuela of course is not alone in seeing a rise in Bitcoin adoption. Though not to the same extent the Argentinian Peso has experienced its own inflation crisis as it steadily loses value. More and more Argentinians are seeing Bitcoin as a safer alternative to their own currency and fortunately for them there are more ways to use the coin including paying for public transportation. The Argentinian government even accepted a payment in Bitcoin from Paraguay for a pesticide order.
I mentioned in previous articles that different coins have different applications but there is no doubt that Bitcoin has the most name recognition. For those living in more stable economies you may not see the point but for those living in more bleak situations Bitcoin may be seen as a life saver and may be the big push for a wide spread adoption.