A group of South Korean money transfer and remittance companies has joined Ripple’s blockchain-based financial services network RippleNet to bolster the remittance market in the country. In a Feb. 25 announcement, Ripple revealed that South Korea-based money transfer service providers Sentbe and Hanpass, and mobile and online based cross-border remittance services firm WireBarley have begun using the RippleNet platform.
The collaboration is geared to improve remittances in Korea. According to the World Bank, workers’ remittances, receipts in South Korea amounted to over $6.2 billion, in 2018. The top destination country for emigration-related remittances by South Koreans was reportedly the United States, which constituted more than 50% of the total number of remittances, with Malaysia running second.
In addition to the three partnerships in South Korea, RippleNet has also announced it’s collaboration with London-based remittance service Azimo. The companies will open an On-Demand Liquidity corridor to the Philippines, with Ripple’s native token, XRP, as a bridge currency. Commenting on the partnership, Richard Ambrose, CEO of Azimo, said: “Ripple’s ODL solution has significantly reduced the cost and delivery time for cross-border transfers, and our customers are seeing the benefits.” Using the RippleNet platform will reportedly reduce liquidity costs by up to 60% compared to traditional banking solutions
In February alone, RippleNet onboarded Bangladesh-based Bank Asia and Mexican International Money Express, a money remittance services firm focused on the Latin and Caribbean corridor. Another major financial institution that partnered with RippleNet this month was the National Bank of Egypt, which ostensibly hopes to access new markets, and to support and extend its remittance business in the Gulf region in particular. At the same time, remittances giant MoneyGram announced a new service allowing real-time money sending based on Visa’s Direct Original Credit Transaction. The solution enables MoneyGram’s users to deliver funds to bank accounts through Debit card deposit. Kamila Chytil, COO at MoneyGram, pointed out that while Ripple is not involved in this service, the firm uses blockchain-based extensively in other areas:
“Today, MoneyGram is utilizing Ripple’s On Demand Liquidity product which allows MoneyGram to trade FX at a corporate level using XRP. It’s a back-end treasury function that’s not consumer facing. The technology is helping to solve the most expensive and time consuming aspect of the current process by reducing the amount of money the company needs to park around the world, which will eventually reduce working capital needs.”
HIVE Blockchain Buys A Bitcoin Mining Facility for $2.8M
HIVE Blockchain Technologies, a Canadian publicly-traded ether (ETH) mining firm, has announced on March 30 the acquisition of a dedicated cryptocurrency mining operation with access to 30 megawatts of low-cost green power. The transaction was valued at CAD $4 million (USD $2.8 M). The facility, leased by Cryptologic Corp, is located in Lachute, Quebec. The firm intends to expand its total available power capacity globally to approximately 50MW, whose mining activities in Europe are focused on the Ethereum network, while Bitcoin miners will be supported in Quebec’s facility.
According to Frank Holmes, interim executive chairman of HIVE:
“The acquisition provides us with an advanced, operating Bitcoin mining facility ready to transition to next generation mining hardware with access to some of the lowest cost electricity on the planet. The cost of US$95,000 per MW is less than half the industry standard build cost per MW.”
HIVE hopes to add flexibility for future expansion plans. The firm already has a presence in Sweden. As detailed by the Canadian firm, the facility offers about $0.04 / kWh in electricity costs, and the electrical infrastructure expects to provide triple redundancy systems for power and internet connectivity, operational staff, and approximately 14,000 Bitmain S9 miners that are currently installed. Holmes highlighted some reasons behind expanding into Quebec:
“A blend of factors makes Quebec a very attractive location for us: geographical diversification, competitive green energy costs, the cost of skilled labor and VAT costs. The acquisition provides us direct control of our destiny, including significant capacity for expansion and flexibility for our future operations. And of course, the positive outlook for blockchain adoption is a reason for our expansion.”
HIVE’s interim executive chairman clarifies that the facility operates entirely on renewable hydroelectricity, thus maintaining 100% green energy. Also, he added that their GPU-based resources provide flexibility to identify and focus computing resources on existing and new cryptocurrencies as they become more profitable to mine.
The news comes after HIVE Blockchain Technologies announced on March 6, the two-phase expansion of its Ether mining operations by more than 20% at the company’s facility in Sweden. In a recent interview Holmes commented on the company’s intentions to improve the profitability of the Iceland facility, as they have done in Sweden.
Dutch Government Looking To Use Blockchain In The Fight Against The Pandemic
A consortium of Dutch companies has launched the “Tech against Corona” initiative. Participating firms will freely provide the Dutch government with access to innovative technologies that can be used in the fight against COVID-19. Netherlands-based distributed ledger technology (DLT) firm, Tymlez, is one of more than 10 companies who are freely providing their services and technologies to the government.
Tymlez has offered its blockchain platform as the underlying technology to “model the medical goods ecosystem through a platform that matches supply and demand.” The firm’s blockchain will be used to ensure transparency across the supply chain — preventing predatory value extraction, such as price gouging, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Some of the other local companies contributing to the initiative include cybersecurity firm, Cybersprint — who is providing security services to several hospitals, information security firm, Taxion — who will freely administer online systems to organize volunteer workers, and IT firm, Compumatica — who will enhance the internet connections of home workers operating in critical service industries. Dutch telecommunications company, KPN, will also partner with global IT conglomerate, Microsoft, to provide computing systems as part of the initiative.
Bitcoin (BTC) is also being used in the fight against COVID-19 in the Netherlands, with the Dutch Red Cross accepting Bitcoin donations through its website. The Italian Red Cross has also embraced crypto — raising nearly $20,000 in BTC for the purchase of medical supplies, including an advanced medical post for pre-triage treatment of coronavirus patients.
University Students Using The Power Of Blockchain For Elections
Students enrolled in the University of Malta’s Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technologies masters program have built a decentralized application (Dapp) that has been used for voting in upcoming student representative elections, per a March 28 press release. The Dapp is built on top of a decentralized digital identity platform that was provided to the students by Vodafone. The election was the first live project to be executed using Vodafone’s digital identity platform. “We are pleased to have been the first use-case for the Vodafone [digital identity] platform, and as far as we can tell a world first to hold a student election on a blockchain,” said Joshua Ellul, the director of the University of Malta’s Centre for Distributed Ledger Technologies.
While the application was built to allow voters autonomous control over their data rather than relinquishing personal data to a centralized entity, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted some of the advantages offered by remote voting platforms. Ellul stated:
“At this time especially, given the current situation, it was important to have a remote voting mechanism in place that enables trust and transparency thanks to the Blockchain-based solution.”
Ellul stated the biggest challenge to developing the platform was “onboarding users in a trusted manner,” adding that “digital identity platforms such as that provided by Vodafone provide a solution.” Voting is private but transparent, meaning that the results of an election can be publicly verified. The University of Malta introduced its blockchain masters course during October 2019.
Malta has long been a crypto-friendly jurisdiction. Whether that would remain the case appeared unclear when the now-former Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, resigned after facing widespread allegations of corruption and ties to the political assassination of a journalist. While the new government-issued statements indicating that leading crypto exchange, Binance, is licensed in the country shortly after taking office, the new government has expressed that its position regarding blockchain has not changed for the time being. They added that it will seek to consolidate blockchain with other emerging industries under the umbrella of “Digital, Financial and Innovative services.”
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