Pat Hoyos – Broad Street Journal
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Friday February 26, 2016 – Bitt, the Barbados-based software company building a new financial platform for the region, has announced the launch of what it called the Barbadian Digital Dollar, which it said would be cheaper to use, more secure and more traceable than cash.
The digital currency works with Bitt’s electronic mobile wallet, allowing users to purchase items using what is known in the industry as a distributed ledger system.
According to Bitt Co-founder Oliver Gale, the mobile wallet will allow customers to do digital financial transactions with ease – for example, sending money to other people using email addresses or simple aliases at no cost to them.
The plan is to extend the use of the mobile wallet to retailers, thus allowing consumers to use their digital dollars to make purchases at lower rates than debit or credit cards.
Bitt has made an app available to facilitate the money transfer through its system, but initially customer would have to deposit money on Bitt’s ATM, located at its company headquarters. Part of the plan is to get merchants to sell digital dollars the way they sell mobile airtime, or “top ups.”
According to an article on the website payments.com, “Across the financial ecosystem, banks have been exploring ways that blockchain — the decentralized ledger and technology that powers bitcoin transactions — could be used to exchange data, assets and currencies.” They have been joined by IBM, Intel, as well as investment bank JPMorgan, in the effort to start finding a way to begin using the blockchain, the engine that powers bitcoin.
However, through the Open Ledger Project, in conjunction with the Linux Foundation, this group is looking to step over bitcoin and find new ways of distributing data, transactions and other sensitive information via the blockchain.
Gale, who was speaking at the launch earlier this week, said: “The Barbadian Digital Dollar is easy to send to anyone, anywhere, with a few gestures on your mobile device. Commerce can be done with less friction, payments can be made instantly, auditors can cryptographically verify the signatures with unparalleled security. Cash cannot do this.”
Bitt’s vision, he said, was to make distributed ledger technology available to assist the entire banking system in the region.
Correspondent banking and settlement systems in CARICOM were inefficient at best, he noted, as it took days to transfer money, and settlement between banks meant greater costs and risks.
In the Caribbean, Gale said, “this affects the people in the greatest need of help, those who rely on money being sent home to survive and feed their families.”
He added that the Caribbean financial sector had been stagnant for too long, and he and his colleagues at Bitt considered themselves pioneers who were “rebellious enough to know the truth when we see it no matter what others say.”
Gale said Bitt is positioned to become “the new heart of the Caribbean financial system”. (Broad Street Journal)