Wave of Mobile Tax Hikes Squeeze Africa’s Poor to Indulge Governments

Wave of Mobile Tax Hikes Squeeze Africa’s Poor to Indulge Governments

Emerging Markets A smart robber fleeces you with a pen and a handshake. From Zimbabwe to Kenya, Uganda to Benin, African governments are on a tax-raising spree, looking for easy money, ostensibly to help fund successive revenue shortfalls and budget deficits. Often, the money ends up being misappropriated by corrupt public officials. The best weapon in government hands is now your mobile phone – the closest thing most citizens in the continent have to a functional bank account. Also read: Banks, Money Mules And Front Companies Aid Terrorists in Conflict Zones Launder Money Milking the Poor: African Governments Enforce a Raft of New Taxes on Mobile Money Faced with the informalization of the economy and a record increase of mobile money transactions, as citizens pull their own weight against unemployment and financial exclusion, taxmen in Africa have pitched up on the last frontier, punishing the poor who are often denied cash rewards for their labor. In Zimbabwe, finance minister Mthuli Ncube this week increased taxes on mobile money transfers to 2% on each dollar from the previous flat 5% on the amount transferred, joining an expanding list of African governments intent on squeezing every dollar from impoverished citizens. The new tax looks like a reduction. It is not. It is a rise in all costs for every transaction. For every dollar spent, Zimbabweans now have to pay 2 cents. In the past, they paid only 5 cents for every transaction, including those exceeding $1. With 96% of transactions in Zimbabwe done electronically, the new tax means that citizens, already battling severe cash shortages, will have to pay more each time they buy bread or fuel or transfer money to a relative, by mobile or bank. The latest increase doesn’t account for the 15% VAT levied on goods and services, and a slew of taxes already charged by mobile carriers and banks, such as balance enquiry. It also means easy revenue for the government. So far this year, cashless transactions have reached 1.7 billion, said the finance minister, compared to just 50 million four years earlier. That’s the equivalent of $64 billion moved via mobile phones and other electronic means by the end of June, according to data from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. If the 2%…

Bitcoin’s Proof-of-Work Can Be Made More Efficient, IBM Research Claims

Bitcoin’s Proof-of-Work Can Be Made More Efficient, IBM Research Claims

Proof-of-work (PoW), the consensus mechanism that secures bitcoin and numerous other cryptocurrency blockchains, has given the technology a reputation for hogging energy. Indeed, a commonly advanced argument is that an army of specialized computers all racing to solve some arbitrary math problem can wind up using as much electricity as a small country. However, scientists from IBM Research, the tech giant’s R&D arm, claim to have found a way to reshape and combine blockchain architectures including PoW, arriving at what they call in a paper a “sweet spot” for energy efficiency, scalability and security. Announced Wednesday, their discovery stems from applying PoW to a very different use case, the internet of things (IoT), and would run blockchain nodes inside the connected devices.  The problem they faced is that, unlike specialized PoW mining hardware for cryptocurrencies such as ASICs and GPUs, IoT devices vary widely in their computational power and energy resources. After all, IoT is a broad category that includes everything from pocket-sized temperature sensors to internet-connected automobiles. As such, all or some of the devices in an IoT network might not be able to solve very complex PoW puzzles. Hence the impetus to make PoW energy-efficient, according to the IBM researchers’ paper:  “Efficiency in IoT can be defined as an optimal utilization of hardware resources and energy. Therefore, in order to achieve that, the IoT devices on the blockchain should optimally utilize resources and energy to maintain and progress the blockchain.” Their proposed solution takes advantage of the fact that not all nodes on a network have to engage in mining. (Many dedicated bitcoin users, for example, simply run full nodes to check miners’ work and keep them honest.) Working on a testnet, or simulated blockchain environment, the IBM researchers have been dividing the nodes into small groups of 250 to 1,000 and then allowing an algorithm to decide what proportion of each group should be doing the mining work, depending on the amount of power used by each node and the security required. This, they say, gains optimum results in terms of conserving power while preserving security. “At the moment we look at blockchains like totally flat peer-to-peer systems, in which all the nodes have to do the same things, compete against each other to get that mining reward, for…

Wave of Mobile Tax Hikes Squeezes Africa’s Poor to Indulge Governments

Wave of Mobile Tax Hikes Squeezes Africa’s Poor to Indulge Governments

Emerging Markets A smart robber fleeces you with a pen and a handshake. From Zimbabwe to Kenya, Uganda to Benin, African governments are on a tax-raising spree, looking for easy money, ostensibly to help fund successive revenue shortfalls and budget deficits. Often, the money ends up being misappropriated by corrupt public officials. The best weapon in government hands is now your mobile phone – the closest thing most citizens in the continent have to a functional bank account. Also read: Banks, Money Mules And Front Companies Aid Terrorists in Conflict Zones Launder Money Milking the Poor: African Governments Enforce a Raft of New Taxes on Mobile Money Faced with the informalization of the economy and a record increase of mobile money transactions, as citizens pull their own weight against unemployment and financial exclusion, taxmen in Africa have pitched up on the last frontier, punishing the poor who are often denied cash rewards for their labor. In Zimbabwe, finance minister Mthuli Ncube this week increased taxes on mobile money transfers to 2% on each dollar from the previous flat 5% on the amount transferred, joining an expanding list of African governments intent on squeezing every dollar from impoverished citizens. The new tax looks like a reduction. It is not. It is a rise in all costs for every transaction. For every dollar spent, Zimbabweans now have to pay 2 cents. In the past, they paid only 5 cents for every transaction, including those exceeding $1. With 96% of transactions in Zimbabwe done electronically, the new tax means that citizens, already battling severe cash shortages, will have to pay more each time they buy bread or fuel or transfer money to a relative, by mobile or bank. The latest increase doesn’t account for the 15% VAT levied on goods and services, and a slew of taxes already charged by mobile carriers and banks, such as balance enquiry. It also means easy revenue for the government. So far this year, cashless transactions have reached 1.7 billion, said the finance minister, compared to just 50 million four years earlier. That’s the equivalent of $64 billion moved via mobile phones and other electronic means by the end of June, according to data from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. If the 2%…

‘Ethical Questions’: Senior Executive Halts Wall Street Journal’s Own Cryptocurrency

‘Ethical Questions’: Senior Executive Halts Wall Street Journal’s Own Cryptocurrency

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) created and then destroyed its own cryptocurrency in a bid to “understand” the industry, the publication revealed in a mini documentary Wednesday, October 3. WSJ Coin, which journalist Steven Russolillo hoped would shed light on the emerging crypto economy while providing real use cases for the journalism industry, made it to the grand total of two issued units. A mound of around 150 physical WSJ Coins was further distributed to the audience of a panel discussing the concept at the publication’s D.Live annual technology conference in Hong Kong. Speaking on the panel were remittance service BitPesa CEO Elizabeth Rossiello and former Ripple CTO Stefan Thomas, who both saw considerable potential in a journalism-based crypto asset. “If you lower the cost of moving money around, the entire economy changes … ‘How do I pay for a news article online?’ changes,” Thomas said by way of example. Russolillo teamed up with Japanese developer Makuto Takemiya to use Hyperledger’s Iroha blockchain as the basis for WSJ Coin. The two fixed a supply of 8.4 billion units, which they arrived at by averaging the supply of the top ten cryptocurrencies by market cap. Two coins made it to a local bar to pay for two beers. When Russolillo pitched a full issuance to investors, however, it was the WSJ’s own ethics head who shut the scheme down. Neil Lipschitz, editor for ethics and standards, said WSJ Coin raised what Russolillo says are “ethical questions.” “We’re not in the business of getting into the cryptocurrency world; we’re here to report it and to explain it, just like we report on banks but we don’t go out and start a bank,” he said, adding: “We’re not going to create a currency.” At the end of August, the Associated Press signed a partnership with content licensing partnership with blockchain-based startup Civil to explore ways to secure intellectual property rights, support ethical journalism, and track content usage with blockchain technology.

Coinbase Rolls Out System to Free Up Stuck Bitcoin Payments

Coinbase Rolls Out System to Free Up Stuck Bitcoin Payments

With transaction fees “volatile and unpredictable,” sending cryptocurrencies can sometimes be frustrating. So says U.S.-based crypto exchange Coinbase in a new blog post that sets out the issues rising from shifting miner fees, and exactly what it has been doing to address the problem. As most who have sent or received bitcoin will know, the primary problem is that the fee variations can mean significant changes in the amount of time it takes for transactions to be confirmed. Coinbase says this wastes company time in pointless support requests and provides users with a “frustrating experience.” The reason fees rise and fall so readily is that rather than clawing back transaction costs via a percentage as card firms like Visa and Mastercard do, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies pay the miners that confirm the transactions a fee based on a model not dissimilar to bidding at an auction. At times when the bitcoin network is busiest, miners have a queue of transactions to process and these are prioritized by dealing with the transactions offering the highest fee first. But the method can cause lengthy delays before transactions are confirmed and the funds have “arrived,” as well as spiking fees at the busiest times, as was seen in late 2017 when the price shot up to an all-time high of around $20,000. Historic daily average transaction fees in satoshis per byte (Source: Coinbase/bitcoinfees.info) To address the issue, Coinbase says it has turned to a procedure which uses economic incentives built into the bitcoin protocol for improving confirmation time of transactions. “Child Pays for Parent” (CPFP), as it is called, has been rolled out at across the company’ systems in the last few months. CPFP works by following up a stalled bitcoin transaction (with a fee too low for the current market to want to process immediately) with a so called “child” transaction – a later transaction linked to the original “parent” transaction, and in this case, set to offer a higher fee. Since bitcoin mining clients will often batch a group of transactions, adding a better-rewarding child transaction can cause the parent to be processed sooner, the post indicates. Coinbase says that the process kicks in after a payment has been stuck for “at least 4 blocks” and…

Bitcoin Wobbles on 2 Percent Drop as Altcoins Fall Harder

Bitcoin Wobbles on 2 Percent Drop as Altcoins Fall Harder

Bitcoin (BTC) stemmed losses compared to many major altcoins Wednesday, October 3, as news hit of crypto exchange Coinbase’s reported $8 billion valuation. Market visualization by Coin360 Data from Cointelegraph’s price tracker and Coin360 shows Bitcoin proving a safe haven against all but one of the top ten crypto assets, losing around 1.6 percent in the 24 hours to press time. BTC/USD had grown over the past week to hit $6,783, before a correction saw prices return to match their position on September 27, trading now at around $6,478 by press time. Bitcoin 7-day price chart. Source: Cointelegraph Bitcoin Price Index Despite investors seeing potential in companies such as Coinbase going forward, the outlook for Bitcoin’s protracted bear market meanwhile remains mixed. Analysis published October 1 gathered technical data to suggest that the largest cryptocurrency is “still overbought,” leaving room for further downside before its fortunes reverse for good. Speaking about Coinbase’s potential deal with investor Tiger Global, Bitcoin bull Mike Novogratz said cryptocurrency was giving proof it was “not tulips.” “Tiger’s not a flake of an investor. These are smart, savvy guys,” he told CNBC on Wednesday. Beyond Bitcoin, altcoin assets faced more testing times, with losses outpacing Bitcoin’s throughout the top ten cryptocurrencies listed on CoinMarketCap with the exception of Monero (XMR). Ripple (XRP) led the rout, losing about 5.3 percent, followed by both Stellar (XLM) and Dash (DASH) down around 4.2 percent over a 24 hour period. Ethereum (ETH), the largest altcoin by market cap, lost 3.8 percent to sit at around $220, still up 2.6 percent this week but against monthly losses of close to 24 percent. Ethereum 7-day price chart. Source: Cointelegraph Ethereum Price Index

Ubisoft Backs New Blockchain Group to Spur Adoption in Gaming

Ubisoft Backs New Blockchain Group to Spur Adoption in Gaming

Gaming giant Ubisoft has taken another step into the blockchain space by becoming an inaugural member of the newly formed Blockchain Game Alliance consortium. Announced Friday at the Blockchain Game Summit in Lyon, France, the group aims to develop common standards and practices for integrating blockchain technology into video games, according to gaming news organization MCV. Other members at launch include blockchain software firm ConsenSys and other startups such as Enjin, Fig, Alto, Ultra, Gimli and EverdreamSoft. Nicolas Gilot, CEO of Ultra, told MCV that the group is focusing on boosting stakeholders with the development of common blockchain standards, explaining: “The Blockchain Game Alliance is advocating for a universal standard in the blockchain gaming space to create a more interoperable and transparent ecosystem, which will benefit stakeholders, by furthering innovation and ensuring economic viability.” Ubisoft, one of the world’s largest game publishers, has already been examining blockchain technology over recent months. The company announced in February that it was looking into how it may apply blockchain technology as part of work at its Strategic Innovation Lab. More recently, the company released a Minecraft-inspired game titled Hashcraft, which allows players to design quests and challenges which are stored on a public blockchain, In an interview with VentureBeat, Ubisoft’s blockchain initiative associate manager, Anne Puck, said “everything around blockchain is worth investigating.” She further noted that the company hopes to reduce “toxicity” in gaming communities, while still adhering to EU privacy laws. Games image via Shutterstock The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

Exchanges Roundup: Tether, Bitfinex Drop Noble Bank, Bitmex Hires COO

Exchanges Roundup: Tether, Bitfinex Drop Noble Bank, Bitmex Hires COO

Exchanges In recent news pertaining to cryptocurrency exchanges, Noble Bank is looking to sell after reportedly losing Bitfinex and Tether as clients, Bitmex has announced the former compliance head of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited as its new chief operating officer, and Huobi’s director of research into blockchain applications has discussed the company’s goals for its upcoming transfer of operations onto its public ledger. Also Read: Chrome Extensions Will Soon Protect Against Miners and Hackers Noble Bank to Sell Amid Loss of Clients Tether and Bitfinex Noble Bank International, a Puerto Rican financial services firm known for servicing Tether and Bitfinex, is reportedly looking to sell. Informed by “a person with direct knowledge of the situation,” Bloomberg reports that “The bank has lost many of its customers, including Bitfinex and Tether, and is no longer profitable […] The company could sell itself for a price between $5 million and $10 million, based largely on the value of its Puerto Rican license to operate as an international financial entity.” Bitmex Hires Former Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited Compliance Head Bitmex has hired Angelina Kwan as the exchange’s new chief operating officer. Mrs. Kwan is the former managing director and head of regulatory compliance for Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited, and has also spent eight years working for the Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong. Mrs. Kwan stated: “In addition to being a true market leader among trading platforms, Bitmex shares my value of gender inclusion, particularly in STEM fields. Cryptocurrency markets present an exciting new opportunity for women to get involved in the intersection of finance and technology, two fields in which they are chronically under-represented. Bitmex has made its commitment to meritocracy clear, and is sending the message that women with deep backgrounds in finance and business can execute at the highest level within cryptocurrency companies.” Arthur Hayes, the chief executive officer and co-founder of Bitmex welcomed Mrs. Kwan to the company, stating: “I believe Angelina’s decision to join us is a signal that the global markets are shifting focus to the rapidly-expanding domain of crypto-coins. Angelina’s vast experience in regulation, trading platforms, business development, restructuring, and investor and stakeholder relations will be pivotal as we continue the push towards mainstream cryptocurrency…

PR: True Flip Opens for b2b Sales with the Launch of Magic Dice

PR: True Flip Opens for b2b Sales with the Launch of Magic Dice

This is a paid press release, which contains forward looking statements, and should be treated as advertising or promotional material. Bitcoin.com does not endorse nor support this product/service. Bitcoin.com is not responsible for or liable for any content, accuracy or quality within the press release. Curaçao True Flip, the blockchain fair games developer, opens a business-to-business service with the launch of its new game, Magic Dice. Magic Dice is exactly as simple as it looks: five number ranges, five magic dice, a 100% safe algorithm of winning combinations, bets starting from 0,00004 BTC, and the chance of winning up to 12 BTC. Magic Dice was developed to be playable on any iframe-supporting platform or casino. With this game, True Flip is finally launching its long-awaited b2b product, which will begin serving its first customers in late 2018. Further developments will include refactoring of existing games to match iframe integrations, as well as the creation of new games for commercial use every two months. “Based on a centuries-old concept, Magic Dice continues our tradition of offering unique, beautiful graphics in a user-friendly interface. We hope this product will gain fans from a variety of audiences due to its simple, yet captivating gameplay” — CMO, Konstantin Katsev. “We’re happy to offer True Flip’s games to the broader market. Beginning this fall, we will undertake our first integrations and we welcome everyone to partner with us. We believe there is still huge demand for fresh visuals and gameplay in today’s gaming market.” — COO, Nikita Parkhomenko. About True FlipTrue Flip is an iGaming developer that has released five games, with more in development, and has attracted more than 200,000 registered players to date to the trueflip.io platform. True Flip benefits from the advantages of distributed ledger technology. These include the overall transparency of processes, such as random number generation, ticket purchases and prize distribution. Sales:business@trueflip.io True Flip is the source of this content. This press release is for informational purposes only. The information does not constitute investment advice or an offer to invest. Contact Email Addressbusiness@trueflip.io Supporting Linkhttps://dice.trueflip.io This is a paid press release. Readers should do their own due diligence before taking any actions related to the promoted company or any of its affiliates or services. Bitcoin.com…

Security Report Paints Mixed Picture of Protection at Biggest Crypto Exchanges

Security Report Paints Mixed Picture of Protection at Biggest Crypto Exchanges

Coinbase Pro topped the ratings of a new report from ICORating into cryptocurrency exchange security Wednesday, October 3, while researchers flag multiple shortcomings that continue to plague the sector. ICORating conducts analytical research in the crypto space in its role as an independent rating agency. The report rates one hundred exchanges whose daily trade volume is over $1 million on various criteria relating to security models, including end user protection and robustness of code. Many of the world’s highest ranked crypto exchanges by trade volume — such as Bitfinex, Bitstamp and Binance — scored relatively poorly, with Binance’s total coming in at 63/100 and Bitstamp at 37/100. “Over the past 8 years about 31 crypto exchanges have been hacked and more than a 1 billion dollars (actually, $1.3 bn) stolen,” the report summarizes. Ranking the exchanges by console errors, user account security, registrar and domain security, and web protocols security, ICORating finds several areas in need of improvement. 32 percent of the ranked exchanges, according to the report, have code errors that could impact user experience and “lea[d] to certain defects in operations.” In terms of user account security, 41 percent of exchanges allow “simple” passwords of fewer than eight characters, contrasting with the three percent statistic relating to those which do not support two-factor authentication. Web security performance was found to be worse, with the majority of exchanges failing registrar and domain security, as well as web protocol security, in some way. “Still nobody is fully protected from the loss of their crypto assets, therefore, invest in reliable assets, diversify your portfolio and choose good crypto exchanges,” the report advises. As Cointelegraph reported, Coinbase, which scored 89 in the report, had filed a patent in August relating to boosting security of Bitcoin (BTC) payments.