This is an opinion editorial by Haider Rafique, the global chief marketing officer for cryptocurrency exchange OKX.
As we reflect back on a wild and woeful year in the markets, it is easy to overlook the fact that we are living through the next great technological revolution. Anyone doubting this need only take ChatGPT for a spin and imagine how artificial intelligence will change society in the years to come. Market cycles come and go, but the innovations being built today bring lasting potential for revolutionizing how we go about our lives in the future.
Yet the underappreciated tragedy of this technological advancement is in those who don’t stand to benefit. Almost 1.5 billion people around the world are unbanked — cut off from the modern financial system. In a time of economic downturn, they face steep odds to improve their standards of living, let alone take advantage of the latest technology that can improve their lives.
The majority of unbanked people are located in developing countries that have been hit harder by rapid inflation in 2022. This is not going away — the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that inflation in emerging markets and developing economies will be nearly twice that of advanced ones in 2023.
This past year has produced some scary examples of runaway inflation — in Turkey, yearly inflation peaked at 85%. In Lebanon, yearly inflation was well above 100% throughout 2022. Heavy-handed, interventionist monetary policy sparked political crises, and access to reliable banking services was interrupted.
It’s clear that systemic risks built into the legacy financial system as well as the policy responses of many governments have failed spectacularly to serve those most vulnerable to economic shocks.
Bitcoin can help fix this. Nothing is a panacea, but if we stand a chance of bringing more economic equality and financial inclusion to those who need it most, we need a financial revolution led by Bitcoin to be part of the solution.
I know that Bitcoin can help bring about that revolution. That’s because Bitcoin is:
- Money that doesn’t require intermediaries to be transferred anywhere in the world
- Programmatically designed to be deflationary
- An open, decentralized and permissionless protocol
However, there is a massive information gap that needs to be filled before Bitcoin can reach its potential. That’s why first, we need to educate people on what Bitcoin is, provide examples of what Bitcoin can do for them, and fight for crypto policy that keeps the unique benefits of the technology intact. This is how we can create the best ecosystem for Bitcoin to be an effective catalyst for change.
Increasing Bitcoin Adoption Through Education
Currently, the global finance climate looks like a perfect storm for Bitcoin advocates to call for greater adoption of bitcoin as both a store of value and a payment technology.
However, ask the average person on the street what Bitcoin is, and you likely won’t get a positive answer. We have the bear market, Three Arrows Capital implosion and FTX debacle to thank for that. These highly-publicized developments have set Bitcoin adoption back by several years and have greatly damaged the reputation of the technology underpinning the asset itself.
In my capacity as chief marketing officer at OKX, I am focused on seeking platforms that not only market our business but build understanding of Bitcoin among mainstream audiences who could be the next wave of adopters. Through our partnerships with Manchester City F.C., McLaren Racing and the Tribeca Film Festival, it is our hope that a rising tide will lift all boats.
But awareness is only half of the battle. User adoption happens when people become convinced of the real-world use cases for a technology. Theoretical arguments are nice, but this is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world. Luckily, the practical arguments for Bitcoin have become very clear after the events of the last year:
- Intermediary-free, fast, low-cost money transfer: The protocol allows bitcoin transfers anywhere in the world, anytime, with no need for expensive money service providers or cumbersome bank processes
- Censorship avoidance: No one can prevent anyone else from using the protocol, which has real-world implications for those in need during times of traditional banking outages, conflict or rights movements
- Anti-inflationary store of value: No central oversight authority means that no one can change the supply of bitcoin or devalue the asset through inflation
It will take hard work to spread awareness of these benefits and cut through the noise. For every Bitcoin advocate, that hard work starts now. Every journey has setbacks and hardships. But those of us who truly believe in Bitcoin must do all we can to expand access and awareness of this technology so it can realize its revolutionary potential.
This is a guest post by Haider Rafique. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.