Cryptocurrency is the great unknown right now. As Bitcoin continues to circle in the news, more and more people are wondering what, exactly, cryptocurrency can be used for. To many people, it’s an intangible concept, one that doesn’t appear to have a practical use.
Yet one unexpected area in which cryptocurrency is proving hugely beneficial is activism. More than ever, technology is being used as a platform and amplifier to tackle injustice, inequality, and social issues on a global scale. Crypto and blockchain are simply another technological tool in that arsenal.
The beauty of cryptocurrency is that it completely changes the potential for economics to help the most marginalized. Since it’s open source and controlled by all, the cost of producing it is reduced to almost nothing, and no one government, entity, or person can control it. By its very nature, cryptocurrency is as democratic an economic model as we have, and it’s leveling the playing field for those who were shut out of traditional economic systems before.
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Consider that one of the greatest barriers to any activist movement is money, specifically a lack thereof. The majority of activist movements start out as grassroots endeavors, and grassroots means paying for things out of pocket. Movements survive only if they can generate enough funding or goodwill so that people are willing to work pro bono. The lower cost of cryptocurrency means you can get more for less and limited funds will go further.
This is of particular importance in underdeveloped nations where large swaths of the poor and rural populations are shut out of traditional banking systems. The poorest people in the world may not have the documents or the funds to open a banking account, but they likely have access to a mobile phone and the internet, which means they can participate in crypto exchange.
Similar to how the evolution of microloans gave people with few resources the opportunity to start their own businesses, establish a steady income, and provide for their families, cryptocurrency is already being rapidly embraced in developing nations where poverty and wealth inequality are pronounced. In Venezuela, for example, where political turmoil and economic dysfunction have reduced the worth of the official national currency to almost zero, Bitcoin has become the number one alternative currency. With crypto, millions of people can now purchase goods and basic necessities that they weren’t able to before, as well as being able to circumvent import-export laws to purchase goods—sometimes desperately needed—from overseas.
Likewise, Bitcoin and crypto have become a lifeline for people in numerous African nations where the collapse of their economies and financial systems have made business and life all but unattainable for many. Not only does it give them the means to live on a day to day basis, but a growing number of citizens are using crypto to give them a savings buffer, such as in Zimbabwe, where the hyperinflation and quick collapse of the banking system in 2008 sent the country into an economic tailspin.
Equally as important to grassroots activism is the blockchain aspect of cryptocurrency. In the United States and other nations, protesting one’s government isn’t a punishable offense, whistleblowing won’t (in theory) send a person to jail, and being gay won’t find you facing legal punishment. Yet others in far too many places in the world don’t have that freedom. Fear of persecution, discrimination, jail time, and even death are the associated risks of being an activist.
The anonymous nature of cryptocurrency, thanks to blockchain’s identity protection technology, is changing that. With blockchain, it’s possible to support a cause financially without a paper trail leading back to oneself. It’s possible for an activist group to buy goods and services or send money back and forth without any member’s identity being exposed. It’s possible to organize an event or build a support system without being targeted, harassed, or shut down.
The vast majority of legal change in the world begins with small, local groups advocating for it. Imagine how much faster progress might happen if those groups could do their work without fear of reprisal or persecution because they were operating in a safe and anonymous system. People can live the lives they want rather than living in fear of being persecuted for their sexual orientation, gender identity, or political and religious beliefs.
We’ve only just skimmed the surface of blockchain technology and the decentralized nature of crypto. Yet it’s clear that advancements in fintech are the future of activism. Once the full potential of crypto as a tool for good is realized, activists everywhere can shape the world they want to see with more support than ever before.