El Salvador's government today announced it contracted U.S. software company AlphaPoint to fix its buggy state-sponsored Bitcoin wallet—and implement the Lightning Network.
New York-based AlphaPoint started improving the Chivo wallet in December, the company confirmed today to Decrypt. It improved the wallet’s user interface, fixed various bugs, and installed a feature so it can handle the Lightning Network.
The Lightning Network is a "second-layer solution" that speeds up Bitcoin transactions, while reducing costs. Its proponents claim it will help people spend Bitcoin on everyday transactions.
"AlphaPoint has improved the Lightning integration for nearly instantaneous low-fee Bitcoin transactions via QR and Lightning addresses," AlphaPoint co-founder and CEO Igor Telyatnikov told Decrypt. "This is the first deployment of Lightning at this scale."
Vadim Telyatnikov, AlphaPoint's co-founder and chairman, added: "The Lightning implementation is a key feature as it allows for Bitcoin transactions of any size, allowing the sending of a single satoshi (under a penny). This is not practical for regular on-chain Bitcoin transactions due to higher fees."
El Salvador's Chivo wallet was launched in September for citizens to spend Bitcoin. It is a centralized, custodial wallet—meaning the Salvadoran government ultimately holds and controls funds.
The app was built by Athena Bitcoin but was notoriously glitchy and citizens struggled to use it.
AlphaPoint has now made it more user friendly, according to both the company and the Salvadoran government. The app will help citizens and businesses deal in Bitcoin, as well as send remittances.
Bitcoin was made legal tender in El Salvador last September. It was the idea of President Nayib Bukele. Now businesses have to accept Bitcoin as a payment if they have the technological means.
Around four million citizens have Chivo downloaded, according to El Salvador’s government. The country's population is over six million.
When Decrypt visited El Salvador in November, many citizens and businesses were still confused and uneasy about using the cryptocurrency. And not just because of a buggy Bitcoin wallet.
Editor's note: This article was updated after publication to clarify a quote from AlphaPoint chairman Vadim Telyatnikov.