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The Atlantic | 04.07.16

Can Bitcoin Be Used For Good?

Chelsea Barabas, Ethan Zuckerman

D&S Advisor Ethan Zuckerman pushes back against a new myth developing around Bitcoin as a ready-made solution to complex humanitarian and international development problems around the globe:

Is Bitcoin really the best way to think about establishing a digital commons for financial transactions? Maybe not. The Bitcoin network requires large amounts of bandwidth to run and uses enormous amounts of power, which makes it challenging for people in the developing world to participate in mining or use the network reliably.

The challenges of financial inclusion in a place like Kenya are diverse, from the cost of sending and receiving money, to the difficulty in doing business across borders, and the concentrated power of Safaricom. Perhaps Bitcoin could spur financial innovation there. But there are no guarantees. Understanding what Bitcoin can do for people in the developing world will first require a better understanding of the people who live there.

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