Tuesday 11 August 2020 9:51 am

Cryptocurrency and blockchain can help solve many problems for the unbanked and the financially excluded

Successful British entrepreneur Richard Ells has been around computers and coding from a very early age, and at age 26 he launched an internet business that would later win him an award, but it was not until he launched cryptocurrency start-up Electroneum in 2017 that he felt he could help make a difference in people’s lives with the revolutionary blockchain technology.

Before Electroneum, Mr. Ells’ first major success came was Sitewizard, the company he and his partner Adrian Reeves set up in 1996. The idea was an all-in-one website design system that would later become one of the earliest content management systems (CMS) on the market. Eight years later, SiteWizard received the National Business Awards Bright Business prize for software.

By 2011, Richard’s company had more than 3,000 clients and had become one of the UK’s most recommended website design firms. Two years later, Richard and Adrian founded another tech firm called Retortal, a company specializing in digital marketing tools for the direct selling industry. The social media management website currently boasts prominent clients such as Mary Kay, FOREVER, and Herbalife Nutrition.

The power of blockchain

“In 2016, I began to contemplate the idea for a cryptocurrency. I had already been involved in mining Bitcoin and understood that this was the future,” he said. “I realized the power of blockchain and crypto and how it could help improve the lives of unbanked people.”

He felt that due to smartphones’ pervasiveness, a mobile crypto was the best way to help all those who are financially excluded.

He said that when he started getting involved in crypto and blockchain, there weren’t any graphical interfaces for wallet systems. Instead, it was all based on command lines, making it very difficult for the average person to use.

“Cryptocurrency, initially, was too complicated to use, so my talented team of developers and I started playing around with the idea of making a cryptocurrency that is easy to use and based entirely around mobile phones,” he said.

Many cryptos are purely speculative tools

The other major problem Mr. Ells sees with cryptocurrency today is that most of them have become solely speculative and therefore do not solve any problems for the potential crypto user and the society where they live. Most people are in crypto out of FOMO or fear of missing out on profits that could make them millionaires. Very few people are genuinely interested in making cryptocurrencies usable.

“Cryptocurrency and its underlying technology, blockchain, has so many potential use cases. Among many applications, it has the power to help people who wouldn’t ordinarily have access to financial services and the digital economy,” Mr. Ells explained. “Empowering these people with a way to supplement their income is not only positive for them but also in helping bring greater prosperity to the communities where they live.”

Electroneum and AnyTask

The British entrepreneur officially launched Electroneum in November 2017 and almost immediately after his team began developing AnyTask. This ETN-powered freelance platform allows people from 14 years to access the global digital economy with smartphones, even if they do not have a bank account.

To spark adoption, cryptocurrencies have to be usable, and there have to be ways to earn them if you want to solve a problem for the unbanked.

“AnyTask does just that. It allows anybody to earn crypto by selling digital tasks as you would with Fiverr, Upwork, Freelancer, and PeoplePerHour, for example. The big difference that our freelance platform does not require our freelancers to have a bank account, nor does it charge them any fees or commissions,” he said.

So, now you effectively have a mobile phone cryptocurrency that you can earn by becoming a freelancer. And the Electroneum ETN token you earn can be used to top up your phone in over 140 countries from within the app at a tap of a button. Electroneum users can send, receive, or transfer ETN instantly. They can also purchase airtime for others no matter where they are.

“I use some of the ETN I earn by selling my skills on AnyTask to help friends who struggle to make ends meet. I purchase airtime for them. I feel it is a cool thing to be in Ghana, as I am, and be able to send friends in Nigeria airtime via the Electroneum app instantly,” said Godwin Delai Adadzie. He goes by Imagadel on AnyTask.

Expanding the ETN ecosystem

Electroneum has recently introduced electricity top-ups for ETN app users in Nigeria, Senegal, Mali, and The Gambia. In the coming months, Electroneum plans to expand this service to more countries.

Thousands of online and brick-and-mortar shops also accept ETN as payment in dozens of countries worldwide. You can find many of them listed on the ETN Everywhere website. 

Electroneum received City AM’s Crypto Award for Social Impact and Sustainability for empowering people in developing countries and the unbanked.

Richard Ells recognizes that the Electroneum crypto ecosystem is still at its early stages and requires many more use cases, including the option to purchase construction materials, pay for transportation, food, commercial television, gaming, and much more.

Solving real-world problems

“Cryptocurrencies should all be focusing on solving real-world problems to spark real adoption. However, as it stands today, we still face many hurdles in making digital currencies widely usable and as easy to use as fiat currencies,” he said.

Electroneum today has over 4 million registered users, 2.7 million app downloads, and its users have completed about 200,000 mobile airtime and data top-ups from within the Electroneum app amd about 300,000 app-to-app transactions for everyday items.  

AnyTask has also proven to be very popular and that may be because unlike other leading platforms that charge freelancers up to 20% of their sales, the Electroneum-powered freelance website does not charge sellers any fees or commissions. Currently, AnyTask has thousands of sellers that offer over 8,000 tasks across dozens of digital task categories.

Cryptocurrencies are still in their infancy, despite them being ten years old. There is a long way to go before the industry sees mass adoption of cryptocurrency, however, Electroneum has achieved what very few other projects have, which is real-world usage and sustained adoption. 

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