Tuesday June 25, 2019
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From paper to plastic to Bitcoins: Changing money with time

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

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With the internet revolution gaining ground in India at a fast pace, and many initiatives on the part of the government to digitize India and take everything online, the days when money (currency) will also be completely digitized don’t seem far.

Bitcoin is one such example. For those who aren’t aware what it is, it can simply be defined as “digital money.” The advantages of bitcoin extend from zero transaction charges and to mobile platforms offering easy buy and sell options, high security and anti-wallet theft options. Handling bitcoins is extremely hassle-free. With one click on your Smartphone, you can do transactions anytime, anywhere.

Bitcoin came into existence around 2009, and is believed to be created by Satoshi Nakamoto, which can be a person or a group of persons. It once gained value steadily, peaking at about $1,100 per bitcoin in November 2013, then its value slid and is approximately $227 per bitcoin now. Also, no government regulates bitcoins yet.

Bitcoins are earned by churning data on the computer, which is also called “mining.” This is done in order to verify transactions.

“I find it (bitcoin app) extremely useful because I can buy online discount coupons and gift vouchers in exchange for my bitcoins,” said Harin Pandya, who works with an event management company in Hyderabad. “I can redeem these from Amazon, Ola and a host of other e-commerce websites.”

Despite all the shiny positives, RBI governor Raghuram Rajan doesn’t seem so convinced about the positive aspects of bitcoin. The main reason being that bitcoins fall outside the purview of regulated financial environment.

Calling them “Crypto currencies”, RBI Deputy Governor, R Gandhi, emphasized that these can be involved in money laundering, tax evasion and terror funding.”

Despite the red flag given by RBI, bitcoin’s popularity continues to rise. Banks and other financial middle-men-organizations are completely out of the picture.

“I have family in New Zealand and I can send money immediately to them using my bitcoin wallet, which they can encash there, making the transaction hassle free,” says Himanshu Sisodia, chief operating officer at Greenleaves Management.

“Though it has depreciated significantly, the value of bitcoins are bound to climb up by next January, because virtual currency is the future and the world will only get more digitised from now on,” said Pandya, adding that he is expecting to get almost 100% return on his investment in bitcoins by this year-end.

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Despite the concerns raised regarding usage of bitcoins, experts believe that with the steady pace of digitization, money is bound to become online sooner or later, and that the world cannot escape bitcoins when such a thing happens to the completion. Since digitizing India means an enhanced push into the direction of cashless transactions, bitcoins will climb up.

Citing the example of Greece, experts have also pointed out that for volatile economies undergoing crisis, bitcoins offer a good alternative.

 

Next Story

Lack of Internet Access Hobbling West Virginians

In the town of Hinton, a 30-minute drive from Sprouting Farms, connectivity is not an issue

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Internet, West Virginians, Sprouting Farms
Hand-picked organic kale is washed and packed on site at Sprouting Farms, W.V., ready for distribution. (J. Taboh/VOA). VOA

Work starts early at Sprouting Farms in Summers County, West Virginia.

Employees in this rural region of the state handpick the organic produce, rinse, prepare and box it up on site, ready to distribute to area customers.

Connectivity is key

The farm also serves as a training center for aspiring farmers who want to learn how to grow — and market — sustainable produce.

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The hills and valleys of West Virginia make it difficult to run fiber optic cable. VOA

The challenge is making that process profitable, says project director Fritz Boettner.

“Our bottom line, everything that we do here, is to make farming a profitable business for every farmer, not just on this farm, but every farmer in the state,” he says. “So in order to improve the bottom line for the farmer, we have to keep what I would call the food hub costs down. So that’s the cost of aggregation, distribution, marketing, all those things.”

And that, he adds, takes broadband connectivity, which is limited or unavailable in rural areas such as this.

“Right now I would say half of our farmers maybe do not have access to solid internet or even cellphone communication to make these types of transactions happen,” he says.

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And while there is fiber-optic cable available nearby, it would cost Boettner $500 a month, plus a $3,000 installation fee, to access it — a price, he says, that’s simply too expensive for small businesses like his.

“It’s just frustrating to know that very high-speed internet exists right down the road at a public school, and it can’t find its way here,” he says. “And I’m sure in West Virginia, in these small rural towns like this, it’s like this everywhere.”

The magic of broadband

In the town of Hinton, a 30-minute drive from Sprouting Farms, connectivity is not an issue.

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The town of Hinton, West Virginia has a number of flourishing businesses, thanks to high-speed internet connectivity. VOA

Once a thriving railroad community, the town now depends on high-speed internet to connect with the outside world.

Ken Allman, who owns several businesses in the area, says his main online business venture,which connects hospitals and physicians around the world, would not exist without that access.

“The fact that our team of people in Hinton, West Virginia, are working with people in Mumbai, India, or in Tel Aviv, Israel, to solve problems in our field across the U.S. speaks to the magic of what broadband and mobile can do in a small community,” he says.

Fiber of the community

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The town is a perfect example of adaptation.

“Hinton wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the railroad in the 1870s,” Allman says. “The railroad was the broadband of the time. It brought the mail, it brought the people, it brought the cargo. It was the broadband of the time.”

Now broadband is the fiber-optic cable that runs through the community and makes commerce possible.

“It’s very difficult to operate a business without reliable broadband,” Allman says. “We require it to support our back office functions, as well as the services we deliver to our clients. … We also need mobile to support our people while they’re trying to do their jobs.

Internet, West Virginians, Sprouting Farms
Organic kale is hand picked, washed and packed on site at Sprouting Farms, West Virginia, for retail and wholesale. VOA

“It’s very difficult to operate a business without reliable broadband, without reliable mobile communications as well,” he says. “The two really complement each other, and you need them in order to function on a day-to-day basis.”

An essential part of modern life

Joe Brouse agrees.

As executive director of the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority, his job is to help stimulate and promote economic development in the region.

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But he says lack of connectivity is hindering that objective.

“This problem with coverage is affecting everyone,” he says. “I mean, it’s an ecosystem. You have to have businesses, they have to have employees, employees have to have places to live, and parents have to have good schools for their children. Part of being a good school in this day and age is having access to broadband.

“So businesses expect it. Households expect it. If people want to live here, they need to have access. It’s an aspect of being in the modern world.”

Hills and valleys

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Sandstone Falls, West Virginia. VOA

The topography of the state and low population levels are among the reasons why affordable broadband is lacking, he says.

“Population, customers, are figured into models of profitability.”

But he remains hopeful.

“Our economic development agency works with the state of West Virginia, with our congressional offices who have been leaders on this issue, as well as other public development agencies, to look at creative solutions that might involve a mixture of grant and loan programs, to entities that can own the fiber [-optic cable] and help with the delivery system,” he says.

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“It’s a different model than just having the provider come in, but it’s a model that we can own, and it’s a model that will allow us to get there quicker,” he adds.

He points to the town of Hinton as an ideal model.

“By many standards, it’s a small place, but it’s actually ahead of the game in terms of providing broadband, and that’s the story we want to tell all over the state in rural Appalachia.”

That’s encouraging news for Fritz Boettner.

“If I’m thinking about the future, and we’re going to grow these farmers, and they’re going to be doing more, we want more farmers in the network. That connectivity issue needs to be dealt with.” (VOA)