In September 2021 El Salvador became the first country to make bitcoin legal tender. That could have been the culmination of a journey that started in the small surf town of El Zonte, now widely known as Bitcoin Beach. In the town people witnessed the birth of perhaps the first community with widespread adoption of Bitcoin. Many people worldwide have jumped on the bandwagon to try to replicate those adoption efforts in other locations.
The project that arguably started all in El Salvador, also known as the Bitcoin Beach project, was made possible thanks to anonymous donations made in bitcoin by a benefactor in the United States. The principles underlying the basis of Bitcoin Beach-like efforts for crypto adoption were made public by the project in a white paper available from their website in the hope of helping other people adapt it to recreate the same results following those underlaying principles in other parts of world.
Here we have toke a close look at the white paper and made a case for starting to replicate those efforts in Venezuela using the Nimiq Wallet.
A charity component at its core
As the Bitcoin Beach white paper correctly pointed out, Bitcoin is a powerful tool, but it’s not a panacea. We would like to add that neither is crypto in general. The white paper mentions that, in addition to hard money, a flourishing civilization also needs strong families, healthy food, quality education, a robust energy grid, and so much more, and that over time, a region that adopts bitcoin but still lacks fundamental necessities will not be able to sustain itself. We have also started to notice some endeavors in the business world taking the same approach to make give back a priority, with initiatives like 1% for the Planet or Pledge 1%.
This kind of efforts are embedded in the DNA of the Nimiq blockchain, which at is creation in the Genesis Block (April 2018), allocated 2% of its total maximum coin supply to be given to charities. Also the Nimiq Foundation has a Community Funding Board with 50% of its members elected from the community, and the other 50% percent from the Nimiq team to whom community members can submit project proposals for them to assign resource allocations and see those projects come to fruition.
Any project proposal that focuses on crypto adoption for a specific physical location could also be submitted to the funding board. As long as those rely on the Nimiq ecosystem to accomplish their goals those can be adapted from the Bitcoin Beach white paper to suit the needs of the target community. For instance using the Nimiq wallet should be more advantageous over using centralized custodial wallets, or the Nimiq OASIS protocol could be used by local merchants or any user to convert crypto payments to the local currency.
Why the Nimiq Wallet?
The Bitcoin Beach's white paper focuses specifically on Bitcoin for crypto adoption, but states that there were some compromises. For instance the wallet they adopted, Galoy’s Bitcoin Beach Wallet, needed to be a custodial wallet to allow easy sending and receiving payments using the user’s handle without having to worry about the recovery words or complicated wallet addresses. They argue that those compromises regarding custody and privacy were the reason why there is such a high level of adoption in the town.
However at the time of writing, it was not possible for us to install the Bitcoin Beach Wallet on Google Play Store from Venezuela. The reason is not clear, since at first it showed a message saying the device was not compatible with the app, which wasn’t the case as we were able to sideload the app anyway. It also showed a message saying that the app was not available in the country. Sideloading the apk file did work in a second attempt, with the first try we mistakingly installing an older version that has network connectivity errors, but the latest version finally installed with no issues.
The company that develops the Bitcoin Beach Wallet, Galoy Inc., might have chosen not to publish the app for Venezuela, so that could have been the issues we experienced, but then more and more companies worldwide are blocking or limiting access to their services in the country to comply with U.S. sanctions, so that’s not uncommon.
Ease of use with no compromises
In contrast the Nimiq wallet is a self-custodial wallet, meaning that users are always in control of their funds. And to keep the entry barrier as low as possible without compromising self-custody, the Nimiq wallet offers users the alternative to save their private keys locally to an access file, which is an image with a password protected QR-code containing their private keys.
Because of the Nimiq wallet running entirely on the browser, users don’t have to install anything to access the blockchain. The wallet is easy accesible from anywhere in the world just by visiting the official Nimiq wallet website.
Unstoppable Domains are also supported, which is a crypto-alternative to using handles for sending transactions that raises less privacy concerns in our opinion. Users can also use NIM, the Nimiq blockchain native token, to pay for things where NIM is accepted, which unlike Bitcoin, has human friendly addresses complaint with the IBAN standard and easy to recognize identicons associated to each Nimiq address to avoid sending transfers to the wrong address.
Easy fiat-crypto swaps
Converting between fiat money and crypto directly from the wallet using Nimiq OASIS is really easy too. The protocol OASIS used by the wallet enables crypto-fiat swaps directly from a bank account. The service was initially made available only for Europe but its being expanded to other regions.
Having access to buy/sell digital assets like Bitcoin or NIM directly with fiat money from a bank account without registration or KYC/AML verification could surely come in handy for many people in the country, in our humble opinion.
As an alternative to just holding Bitcoin longterm users can also swap some of their coins to NIM, and stake those to receive rewards. Nimiq started as a Proof-of-Work blockchain but will soon move to a Proof-of-Stake protocol allowing users to earn block rewards without having to run any mining equipment or be online all the time.
Being able to easily have passive income while staking your NIM to have earnings without having to install or run any program on your computer is something that could appeal to some users in the country with no access to bank accounts in hard currency. There is even a staking calculator already made available.
Certainly there are many advantages that the Nimiq wallet can offer to people trying to replicate the success of the Bitcoin Beach project in Venezuela. The focus of Nimiq on a blockchain and ecosystem that's native to the web, fast and easy to use, and above all things without compromising on the five pillars of open blockchain is for sure something that should appeal many users like those that need to be onboarded in such efforts.
For us the word paradox comes to mine when thinking of having a "unique" decentralized open blockchain that everyone should use. Almost by definition it is not possible to achieve widespread adoption adhering to the principles of open blockchain while at the same advocating the use of only one alternative to solve the problem. One might argue that something similar happens in nature with so many approaches to life, the more diverse the more resilient life is. We at Nimizuela think that in a similar way, the underlying basis of Bitcoin Beach-like efforts should be tried worldwide, with as many variants and approaches as possible, and that’s the only way to truly move faster to a world where everybody is financially sovereign.
In that regard we would like to recommend everybody giving the Nimiq Wallet a try to see for themselves the approach Nimiq has taken. Nimiq complements the use case of bitcoin as a store of value while being a fast decentralized payment protocol native to the web, with a wallet easy to use without taking any centralized shortcuts, and an ecosystem with technologies like OASIS moving towards connecting the traditional financial system to the crypto world in a seamless way.
Update: (Sep 10, 2022)
After toying a bit with the Google Play Store account setting on the device we were able to install the Bitcoin Beach Wallet directly from the store without having to sideload the application. It turns out the account was previously set to the U.S. option for country (it’s more convenient that way if you are in Venezuela for other reasons). So, even being physically present in Venezuela and connecting through the local ISP the app wouldn't appear as available in Venezuela. That’s the reason why after switching the country to Venezuela in the account settings the app did appear as available and we finally could install it through the normal procedure. Even so, the argument we discussed in the article for using the Nimiq wallet is still valid, for the very same reasons, since not using a self-custodial wallet defeats the purpose of having your funds on a decentralized open blockchain like Bitcoin or Nimiq in the first place.