As Bitcoin grows worldwide, even in the least expected countries, we decided to focus on Australia this time and try to find out how’s the cryptocurrency scene evolving in the land down under. We talked to Jason Williams, who is one of the funders of the Sydney Bitcoin Users Group (BitcoinSYD) and one of the Bitcoiners who is working to form the Australian Bitcoin Foundation.
This “techy type of guy who likes Bitcoins”, as he describes himself, was one of the first persons to push the formation of a cryptocurrency-related group in Australia. “It was kind of funny as there were two of us at the same time who decided to do the same thing”, Jason Williams explains, referring to Max Kaye, creator of Marketcoin. “I’ve had a passing interest in Bitcoin for a couple of years now, but it was only in the past few months that I’ve started spending a lot of time reading and researching, and now organising Bitcoin”, he adds.
The next big project for the group is the development of an Australian Bitcoin Foundation: “these are the very early days for the foundation and we’re exploring ways in which we’ll structure our organization and how we’ll position ourselves domestically, as well as internationally”.
An institution like this could help raise even more awareness about Bitcoin in Australia. We also questioned Jason Williams about this matter, but he admitted that his opinion might be biased, as he mainly hangs out with “techy type people”. Working in the systems administration and automation field for a company that does telecommunication management systems, he deals with “like minded people who are also into Bitcoin”. Besides, he’s also a miner, but just for fun. “I do mine! I’ve got two block erupters which net me about AUD$1 a day. I’m not in the mining for the cash obviously, its just something cool to do”, he says.
Talking about Bitcoin’s reputation in Australia, Williams explains it has been a gradual process. “When we had the bubble this year, there was lots of coverage of Bitcoin (both positive and negative and some just factually incorrect) and so the general awareness has increased as well. Part of what we want to do with BitcoinSYD is to promote general awareness and usage amongst the general population”, he stated.
“Not too sure on the number of Bitcoin users nationwide, but to hazard a guess I would say it’s in the thousands, as there are businesses being supported by Bitcoin in Australia”, he adds, claiming that “as Bitcoin gained more awareness, the number of companies accepting it has increased. In Australia we’ve got mostly market related websites. However, you can also buy steak with your Bitcoins!”.
A new software (and coffee) for the Australians
To help change this, Jason Williams developed a new software to help the interested establishments accept Bitcoin. The creation is called BitPOS. “I’ve also started bitcoffee.me, a site where you can buy coffee with Bitcoin, something you can use in your daily life”, the cryptocurrency fan adds.
Well, at least there’s already coffee for BTC in Australia, but what about surviving only with Bitcoin in the country? “I dont think we’re quite there yet. There are two things holding us back: there aren’t enough merchants accepting Bitcoin, and I aim to change this by providing a way any shop can accept Bitcoin by using BitPOS.me, and the economic circle is not closed. This means there aren’t enough things you can buy in your daily life in Australia“.
For now, the Bitcoin ecosystem keeps growing. Regarding BitcoinSYD, the group has about 35 active members right now and the meetings happen weekly in the Sydney Central Business District. “It started when both Max [Kaye] and I proposed a meetup at the same time on Reddit. Each week we get new faces turn up, and one week we even had a guy from Los Angeles – who was on his honeymoon – turn up to hang out, chat and trade Bitcoins for Australian dollars”.
What about some Beers for Bitcoin?
The meetings happen each Wednesday at the GPO bar. “There is a core group of us that meets a little earlier to talk about structure and organization, while the bulk of people come in at about 18:00. The current project we’ve got on is a Beers for Bitcoin event at The Old Fitzroy hotel. We’ve written software to accept Bitcoin and are meeting with the publican to train the bar staff – and ourselves – on the procedures on how to integrate Bitcoin sales with their existing POS infrastructure”, Jason Williams reveals.
The event has some sponsors lined up like BTC.sx, Bitinnovate.com and Bitscan.co, who will provide advertising material and some lucky door prizes. Soon, the organizing team will be shipping out press releases to announce the first ever “Beers4Bitcoins” event in Sydney.
And what about the near future of Bitcoin in Australia? “The next step for the community at large is to raise awareness and make resources available so that people can get paid in Bitcoin. We’re right at the beginning of a wave of technology that will change the way money operates forever. It’s a very exciting time to be alive”.