Women Worldwide Struggle to Access Banking Services. Bitcoin Is Only Making That Worse
By Alice Merry
Earlier this year, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim spoke out in Washington, comparing cryptocurrencies to “Ponzi schemes”. Yet, cryptocurrencies and their more respectable cousin, blockchain, are already taking a prominent role in the international development sector. Blockchain technology is currently being used to distribute aid to 100,000 Syrian refugeesby The World Food Programme. And plans for future blockchain initiatives within the U.N. alone run from ending child trafficking to providing services for women and girls in humanitarian settings.
Blockchain is the technology behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. It consists of distributed databases that are constantly updated and verified by their users, rather than by a central authority. They allow digital assets, such as cryptocurrencies, to be traded and transferred without going through an institution such as a bank. In the development sector, many hope that blockchain may offer solutions for the world’s 1.7 billion unbanked adults.
This figure represents almost a third of the world’s population, predominantly low-income people and women, who are unable to access financial services. The problem persists in developed countries – 15% of Americans over the age of 15 are unbanked – but is particularly acute in developing countries.
Photo courtesy of Ismael Ferdous.