Bitcoin Beach: adoption on the coast of El Salvador
In the south of El Salvador on the coast are El Zonte and Punta Mango, two small villages where the bitcoin adoption celebrates its heyday. Together, the villages form Bitcoin Beach, an initiative that aims to help the El Salvadorans make a technological catch-up with bitcoin. Check Mrbitcoinexchange.com for more information.
It all started sometime in 2019 when an anonymous donor discovered that a long-forgotten USB stick contained a file from a bitcoin wallet with a fortune in bitcoin. The donor had once bought them when a bitcoin cost only a few cents each, but then forgot about them and now suddenly had millions of bitcoins available.
The donor decided to do something good with the bitcoins: something that is good for the world, but also good for Bitcoin. However, that is difficult, because most charities exchange bitcoins for regular money immediately after receipt. That may be good for the charity in question, but it does little for the adoption of bitcoin.
The donor therefore founded the Bitcoin Beach project together with the American Michael Peterson; two villages on the coast of El Salvador where a circular bitcoin economy is stimulated.
The aim of the project is to help the local population to catch up in technology and to give them access to international and digital payments via Bitcoin. To achieve that, Bitcoin Beach provides financial support in bitcoin to the local population and local shops and businesses are connected to the bitcoin network.
In these beach communities, for example, an economy must be created that maintains itself, where people earn and spend money in bitcoin.
On the Bitcoin Beach website you can find a plan that for the time being looks three years ahead and the latest developments are regularly shared via the associated Twitter account.
Many residents of El Zonte and Punta Mango are first introduced to digital payment through the initiative; only 10% of the local population currently has a bank account. Usually the population is too poor to be of interest to banks or the necessary infrastructure is lacking. However, with Bitcoin, they need little more than a smartphone and a wallet application.
However, it did not go completely smoothly. Initially, people still needed a lot of explanation and help and local businesses also had to be connected. Many of the project’s efforts are therefore focused on education and information. Also, not everyone was equally receptive. The slightly older age groups in particular struggled with the technology and found it too complicated, Peterson explains in a recent interview with Forbes.
According to him, the younger generation picked it up easily. Since the COVID-19 crisis, interest in bitcoin from the local community has increased noticeably.
“As we injected Bitcoin into the community, we also taught local businesses how to accept it and helped educate them on the advantages and drawbacks of accepting Bitcoin … There was a lot of resistance among the adults, [it was] too technical. So we moved on to youth, they picked it up right away. The key is to get them to start transacting right away, then they want to learn more about it, the security of it, and how it works, ”- Michael Peterson, in an interview with Forbes
Although they used to use mostly normal on-chain bitcoin transactions in the beginning, the relatively high transaction costs at low amounts were often an obstacle. A large part of the local community has therefore now switched to the Lightning Network, because bitcoin transactions are therefore lightning fast and cost almost nothing. Wallet of Satoshi is said to be widely used within the community for its ease of use.
“Originally, it didn’t make sense for 25 cent transactions, but did for 5 dollars. But when the transaction costs ramped up again, we switched over to the Lightning Network, ”- Michael Peterson, in an interview with Forbes
Meanwhile, the Bitcoin Beach project has been running for a while and seems to have some success. It is now possible to pay with bitcoin at supermarkets, barber shops, restaurants, nail salons and hardware stores. People can also use it to pay for their water bill and soon their electricity.
The project also invests in local infrastructure and pays the construction workers in bitcoin. Young people who want to earn some extra money can do that by signing up for the youth program, where they receive bitcoin in exchange for chores such as cleaning up litter.
About 600 families receive direct financial support worth $ 35 dollars in bitcoin every three weeks, which is about half of their costn covers. Bitcoin Beach also provides support to schoolchildren and students through scholarships and by reimbursing travel expenses to school.
The hope is that the bitcoins will slowly but surely circulate among the population through these roads and that adoption in the area between the two villages will gradually increase. It should therefore become increasingly common that family who live and work abroad does not return dollars home, but bitcoins. Expensive exchange offices that take five to ten percent of the amount and the closest of which is an hour of travel, they no longer need them.
“It is amazing what is happening here in El Zonte. We are preparing the kids of the future. They are used to it now – they can check their money on their cell phone, they are excited to save. This financial education is important. We never got that opportunity, and it’s incredible the opportunities children have now. It makes them believe that there is a future in El Salvador. That they don’t have to leave and go somewhere else to succeed … Our kids start dreaming again They have time to be kids, to swim and to play. Bitcoin gives them freedom. “- Roman Centeno, Bitcoin Beach volunteer