July 17, 2015- In This Issue:


Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Promotes Bitcoin in Kenya


Last month, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has funded Ghana based blockchain startup Bitsoko in a startup competition called Gran Challenges Explorations, which focused on promoting wide spread acceptance of mobile money by small merchants.


Bitsoko received a research grant of US$100,000, and with it, Bitsoko aims to expand its bitcoin merchant payment processing and bitcoin wallet services to Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone. The project is entitled "Enable Universal Acceptance of Mobile Money Payments," and if the project is successful, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will offer another research grant of US$1,000,000.


Bitsoko has already begun to attract local businesses to accept bitcoin, including restaurants and cafes. "We have signed up local businesses including restaurants, cyber cafes, and mama mbogas (roadside vegetable vendors). If you go to a restaurant and pay using bitcoin, the owner of the business will send us the bitcoin and receive mobile money in exchange. We are trying to build the infrastructure around bitcoin, which is lacking here," the Bitsoko team announced.


Several businesses in Kenya have already started to accept bitcoin through Bitsoko, including Bejo's bar and restaurant and Chase Cyber Café, where people can pay their fees in bitcoin.


The technology and opportunities that Bitsoko will bring to Africa will fuel the on-going development and improvement of the financial infrastructure in Kenya and Africa that MPesa, Africa's most popular mobile payment platform, initially began.


By using bitcoin's blockchain technology, the underbanked and underserved states, countries and cities can send payments across borders easily and quickly, and accept payments with low transaction fees.


Bitcoin is 'A Beacon of Hope' For Afghan Girls

Bitcoin has emerged as a pioneering philanthropy tool essentially because it removes all the middlemen and hence, provides more end-value to the receiver. Several leading non-profits have also started embracing Bitcoin as a mode of soliciting donations. And now it has been learnt that the digital currency has become 'a beacon of hope' for the afghan girls.


Fereshteh Forough, a founder member of the Afghanistan-based non-governmental organization Digital Citizen Fund (earlier called Women's Annex Foundation), is passionately working in the field of women empowerment.


Formally the first advocate of Bitcoin use in Afghanistan, Fereshteh is striving to help the Afghan women by sharing her knowledge in technology to make them technical literate. She is imparting coding skills, which helps them in securing work online and getting paid via Bitcoin.


"We are going to empower girls online without being worried of physical and geographical distances. They come online, they work online and they get paid online."


Fereshteh is the Founder and the CEO of Code to Inspire, a non-profit for helping the women become technically literate and financially independent.


Through this non-profit, social skills and practical hands-on experience is also provided to the ladies so that they do not lose out in the dynamic online industry.

Vladimir Putin say digital currencies like bitcoin have use 'in certain segments of the economy'

Russian president Vladimir Putin has spoken out for the first time about digital currencies such as bitcoin, saying he could envision potential applications for them in the future.


"This money has no real basis and it does not depend on any real entity," Putin said at an educational forum broadcast on state television.


"In general you can use these 'coins', they are spreading more and more. You can use them as the equivalent [of money] in certain segments of the economy. This is possible."


Russia has gradually softened its position on bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in recent months, having once placed tough penalties on altcoin activities.


New proposals were outlined in November 2014, reducing fines for creating, issuing or promoting digital currencies from $1,314 (£841) to $1,050.


Putin went some way to explaining Russia's cautious stance on bitcoin by revealing he thought there were fundamental problems with digital currencies.


"People in the Russian Central Bank have a very professional position [on digital currencies]," Putin said. "We do not reject it. Yet there are serious and real problems with its acceptance, at least today."

Bitcoin Technology Intrigues Standard Chartered 

Chief Innovation Officer at Standard Chartered Bank Anju Patwardhan has voiced her opinion in favor of the Bitcoin technology, saying that, "no bank can afford to ignore what it augurs for the ongoing avalanche of digital innovations to come."


In a post published on LinkedIn titled Blockchain - a disruptive force for good?, Anju elaborates on the tremendous potential of the blockchain technology to become a low cost and transparent transaction infrastructure.


Emphasizing that Bitcoin cannot replace paper money, Anju believes that the greatest legacy would come from the implementation of the underlying blockchain technology to the security of the banks and maintaining the integrity of the financial system.


The Chief Innovation Officer sees an application of the blockchain technology in trade finance which is usually a time-consuming, paper-intensive process. With the disruptive technology, transactions records can be authenticated and secured and will be visible to the trading parties.


Bitcoin was earlier pegged as an innovation aimed at bringing down the traditional banking system. However, with time, things are improving as the world becomes an audience to several leading firms investing in blockchain and even churning out partnerships with Bitcoin startups.


Financial services giants such as Citi, UBS, Bank of New York Mellon and several other technology companies have already announced their heavily funded forays into the blockchain technology. In a first, Barclays has partnered with a Bitcoin startup Safello to create a Bitcoin platform.


New Process Removes the Risk of Accepting Bitcoin Payments

One of the things that inhibits merchants from accepting bitcoin payments is that there's a time lag in receiving cleared funds. A bitcoin payment can take around 10 minutes to be verified and confirmed on the blockchain.


Even then most payment processors will wait for 2-6 confirmations (taking 20-60 mins) before guaranteeing to the merchant that the transaction is complete and the merchant will receive the funds. For merchants used to accepting card payments which are verified in seconds this is a problem.


But now payments processor Bitnet is introducing a new 'Instant Approval' system that looks at a bitcoin transaction and, in less than 10 seconds, assesses the probability that the transaction will be confirmed on the blockchain and sends the merchant a notification. Bitnet guarantees the payments this service approves, simplifying the acceptance of bitcoin for merchants.


Bitnet has partnered with BlockCypher, a blockchain web services company, as a key data provider for the new service. The Instant Approval process relies on a number of data points, crucial to which are BlockCypher's double-spend detection and transaction propagation metrics.