Cryptocurrency and blockchain have entered into the mainstream of the finance ecosystem and have become a significant part of our life. Although it may not be as visible as other forms of currency has been subject to various regulations by the government, yet they are far more popular than perceived. Many retail and institutional investors have become highly proactive in crypto investments, especially in popular cryptos like Bitcoin, Ethereum, etc. Interestingly cryptocurrencies are no longer limited to the financial technology sector but are being used across a wide range of industries, from education to entertainment. Few Governments are also adopting them more liberally than before, which has certainly boosted their acceptance and popularity.
The recent BRICS summit is a clear demonstration of this growing trend, where the leaders from the member nations have discussed the idea of introducing their own cryptocurrency. BRICS is a five-member body with Brazil, Russia, China, India, and South Africa as members, and they have plans to create a single payment transaction system among these countries, which would be called the BRICS currency. Krill Dmitriev, the director-general of the Russian Investment Fund, has said:
An efficiently operating BRICS payment system is capable of stimulating settlements in national currencies and ensuring the stability of settlements and investments between our countries, which form more than 20% of the global influx of foreign direct investment.
The idea of this new cryptocurrency was well accepted by the BRICS Business Council as a single payment system would add convenience and make transactions secure and less complex.
This shows how even governments who have always been skeptical about adopting cryptocurrency are also coming around the idea of their varied application. A few countries who have accepted the legality of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency in general, although they certainly cannot be used as legal tender, are- USA, where several companies like DISH Network, Microsoft store, Subway, etc. accept Bitcoin as a payment method. The overall attitude towards Bitcoin is generally a positive one, the same as found in Canada. Bitcoin comes under a commodity and transactions are treated as barter exchanges and classified as money service businesses to prevent money laundering. Australia also allows trading, mining, and buying of Bitcoin; in Finland, Bitcoin has been given value-added tax-exempt status similar to Belgium. Bitcoin is not even regulated in Cyprus, and it is also legal in Germany.
The 11th Director of the National Economic Council, USA, and former president of Goldman Sachs, Gary Cohn, belongs to the ‘blockchain not Bitcoin club.’ “He affirmed his belief that it will one day be a global cryptocurrency and whatever coin emerges to dominate the future will not be based on mining costs or costs of electricity or things like that.” It is something that the US government has been keeping a check on and the president in the future may want to use a technology that is decentralized. The EU nations like the UK, France, Germany, Italy are slightly more cautious about cryptocurrencies as they are keen on introducing legislation regulating them. However that does not make them Bitcoin negative like French president Emmanuel Macaron was ‘photographed holding a Ledger blue wallet and ex-chancellor Osborne was ‘photographed withdrawing cryptocurrency from an ATM.’ Smaller European nations like Malta, Lithuania, and Estonia have emerged as crypto-friendly and have relaxed several regulations w.r.t. cryptocurrencies.
Blockchain and cryptocurrency almost go hand in hand and have made inroads into various sectors, especially the ones which use state-of-art technology like financial services. This sector requires secure and transparent transactions, and cryptos will help protect them and make them less vulnerable to fraud. The interest in stable coins among cryptocurrencies is expected to rise so that the volatility of crypto assets can be stabilized. Besides blockchain, Ripple technology is likely to become popular since it’s a combination of finance and cryptocurrency and “can be used both as a coin and a payment system, helping financial institutions transfer funds locally and internationally.” Cryptocurrencies will find increased application in the field of educational resources, providing certain educational services like webinars, online tutorials, and also in the field of market analysis. In the case of the latter various analytical tools would help market enthusiasts to improve their trade and investment.
Crypto has also found recent applications in the field of healthcare and has helped in providing various public services like payment of taxes, paying fees, and also passes for the public transport system. E-voting, the beauty industry, recently some baby food companies and also the entertainment industry have used cryptocurrencies and blockchain. Cryptocurrencies are also being added as payment options besides other existing methods. Jennifer Whaley says that “setting up a payment system was super easy, I used Coinbase and BitPay to convert to fiat quickly. Configuring a wallet was also simple and efficient. Payments peer-to-peer have always been timely depending on the network, and to date, I’ve never had a failed or troubled transaction, which is easily confirmed in the block explorer.” Many companies are offering these services of conversion of cryptocurrency into legal currency as cryptos are a preferred payment method after credit and debit cards and options like Paypal. If precautions are taken, these payment options can be highly secure and also anonymous from the control of the central authorities, and therefore, their demand is likely to grow manifold in future. Also, there’s one more option where crypto can be used as a payment option, i.e. Bitcoin gambling, which is a simple way rather than playing with traditional money.
Although world leaders and governments may not have a uniform and consistent stand on cryptocurrency and blockchain like many East Asian countries still have a negative stand on this, the trend is gradually changing. As it has been rightly pointed out that cryptocurrency is the ‘money of the future,’ and the qualities of versatility, decentralization, the security of transactions, protection of anonymity would make it the go-to option for many. However, what needs to be done is to bring this currency more into the mainstream so that the myths and perceptions around its use are cleared and potential users perceive it as a boon rather than a bane.