Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft an co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation did an ‘AMA’ (ask-me-anything) today on Reddit.com, and interestingly, the most-voted question to be answered related to digital currency.
Asked by user ‘shiruken’: “What are you thoughts about cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin?”
An hour later, Mr. Gates responded with the following (bold emphasis ours):
The foundation is involved in digital money but unlike Bitcoin it would not be anonymous digital money. In Kenya M-pesa is being used for almost half of all transactions. Digital money has low transaction costs which is great for the poor because they need to do financial transactions with small amounts of money. Over the next 5 years I think digital money will catch on in India and parts of Africa and help the poorest a lot. (http://www.impatientoptimists.org/posts/2011/01/mobile-phones-savings-a-powerful-pair)
This is a pretty positive outlook, and Mr. Gates certainly does make a point. Without middle-men, hefty fees won’t apply (although a small fee paid to support the network does).
The idea is anything but original, though. The potential for digital money to become crucial in poor countries has long been discussed, but Gates’ projection of five years may seem sooner than the lot of us imagined. Whether or not he’s referring to bitcoin specifically is unclear, however.