Electroneum, the startup which enables users to “mine" its cryptocurrency on their smartphones, is launching new services in Turkey—the inflation-strapped country is currently number one in crypto adoption, worldwide, with 20 percent of the population claiming to own cryptocurrencies.
The UK-based platform has has inked deals with all three of the country’s telecom operators, to enable users to pay for airtime with its cryptocurrency, ETN, its CEO Richard Ells told Decrypt today.
"The whole concept of the airtime thing was to give people an understanding that cryptocurrency has value. In Turkey, you have 20 percent ownership of crypto, but that’s still the richest 20 percent,” he said. “It isn’t the poorest people who are using cryptocurrency.”
The service launched in Turkey last month and is also available in South Africa and Brazil. Ells said that Electroneum is using mobile top ups to combat the negative attitude that prevails to cryptocurrencies.
Its research indicates that there are over 25 million unbanked people in Turkey, which makes it fertile territory for its top up service.
And, in the next few weeks, it also plans to launch a new platform that will allow users to learn, share and monetize their digital skills using ETN as payment, with zero fees attached.
Ells explained that the new platform “AnyTasks,” allows for payment by traditional methods, such as credit cards, "and then the remittance takes place in ETN, so the person can be unbanked yet still able to sell their digital skills.” He added that Turkey’s 3.6 million refugees could also benefit from the new platform, which is cost-free to people in developing countries.
“There’s a great need for something of value that’s easily transferable, and easy to store and carry, especially for refugees,” he added. “It’s a really interesting place for us to be.”
Together with NGOs, the startup is setting up a complementary platform, called Task School, containing digital skills tutorials—anything that can be done on a mobile phone, from stop-frame animations within social media content for businesses to animated videos such as “Singing Happy Birthday in Zulu,” said Ells.
Ells believes that using cryptocurrency to provide people with a means to monetize digital skills is a game changer, particularly as it can be done remotely.
And it’s not just refugees who could benefit from the new service. Cryptocurrency use in Turkey is increasing, and sentiment towards it is at an all time high.
Data suggests a strong correlation between cryptocurrency use and countries where people are facing economic difficulties such as inflation and steep devaluation. Venezuela is an extreme example.
This year, inflation in Turkey hit 20 percent and the Turkish lira has lost as much as 40 percent of its value against the US dollar. Turkey froze 4 million bank accounts without warning. Today, the Financial Times reported that Turkey has moved to curb selling pressure in its financial markets, as investors have recoiled at the country’s offensive in Syria and a decision by US prosecutors to file criminal charges against Halkbank, one of the country’s biggest banks.
Andy Cheung, head of operations at the global crypto exchange OKEx, told Decrypt that Turkey contributed significantly to trading volume in its Europe market. “We do see a significantly increase in registration from Turkey. The demand is no doubt very high there and the community has been very enthusiastic and open to the new technology,” he said.
Electroneum is pushing hard for digital inclusion and mainstream cryptocurrency adoption, and already has 3.2 million end users, the majority of whom are in the developing world, with a large presence in South Africa and Brazil.
Asian expansion is in the works and Ells promised that details of some very innovative tools to help users in challenging environments keep their cryptocurrency safe will be announced before the end of the year.