Bitcoin has a new group of representatives in Australia and now it’s really official. The not-for-profit Bitcoin Association of Australia was constituted on 23rd October and is already working to raise awareness in the country.
The organization’s goals align with the ones promoted by the Bitcoin Foundation – basically, to protect and standardise Bitcoin, educating people about cryptocurrency -, as the new institution promises to work in order to get Bitcoin recognised at a governmental level through future events and other initiatives.
The association’s president, Jason Williams, talked with 99Bitcoins about this new challenge and painted a current picture of Bitcoin’s influence in Australia.
Now that the Bitcoin Association of Australia is finally a reality, what will be your first projects?
Jason Williams – “It’s the very early days for us, but we intend to engage, and be available for engagement, with Australian authorities such as the Australian Tax Office, AUSTRAC (AML/CTF/KYC) or ASIC (Australian Securities and Investment Commission). Another significant challenge we face is the correction of misinformation out there. Yes, Bitcoin can be used for nefarious purposes, but so can traditional currency. We want to dispel some of the myths, as well as talk to the Government and individuals about good Bitcoin practices.
What is Bitcoin Australia trying to change?
Ultimately, Bitcoin Australia would like Bitcoin to become as mainstream as dollars. There are so many things on this road we need to tackle. For example, we need to draw out official positions from the government regarding Bitcoin, we need to educate people on safe Bitcoin practices, Bitcoin technology must become easier for non-technical people to use and the general awareness and misinformation surrounding Bitcoin has to be addressed.
This is the first time in hundreds of years a viable alternative currency has had the chance to be incepted by mass population. Thankfully, most people are familiar with electronic forms of currency and digital interaction with it, so getting Bitcoins into the mainstream won’t be as difficult as it could have been.
Bitcoin Australia wants to make the Bitcoin community and its culture grow in Australia. We want to make sure there are is a continuous evolvement of best practices as new technology becomes available. Things like encryption, offline wallets or hardware wallets need to be promoted as the idea ways to store Bitcoins.
We’ve also talked about Bitcoin Australia accreditation programs. For example, to help mitigate the risk of online theft of Bitcoins, Bitcoin Australia could develop an accreditation procedure complete with our own regulation and auditory process. Having said that, we’ve only talked over the possibility. We recognise this is an important item of discussion, however, we’re really just kicking-off in Australia, and it will realistically be some time before it comes to fruition.
Will the association have members?
Absolutely. We’ve just worked out a tiered membership schedule that will include a permanent Founding Member status attached to the membership for members who register early. We really want to recognise those who are putting their faith in us, as a fledgling organisation in Australia, and feel this is a pretty reasonable way to say thanks for backing us.
How’s the implementation of your BitPOS (software that allows merchants to quickly accept Bitcoin) going?
BitPOS is going great. We’re launching our new system ready for Beers4Bitcoins – the @bitcoinSYD Christmas party – on December 1st. There are a bunch of great features coming with this new release, such as affiliate management, a merchant self signup portal, a merchant self-management portal, two factor authentication and other killer features. Our mantra at BitPOS is to make everything as simple as possible for our customers.
There is quite a bit of interest in BitPOS from within the Bitcoin community and from without. I’ve been in contact with people not only in Australia, but also New Zealand and Hong Kong. Our trip to Melbourne was also very fruitful: we’ve established relationships and partnerships and have started a sales office down there.
We’re also right in the middle of developing promotional and educational material for existing and prospective merchants. It’s really full steam ahead for BitPOS. It’s amazing, exciting and exhausting all at once and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I was talking to someone this week and trying to convey my excitement, I ended up saying that i couldn’t put enough words in the right order to let you know how I feel about this.
How are the general awareness levels in Australia right now?
I’ve been interviewed for a national television show that sits in prime time with the target audience being the mums and dads of Australia. Events like this, with national reach, are becoming more and more common in the country. Australia also gets national press coverage from time to time due to high profile events in the Bitcoin community. Unfortunately, some of the bigger events in the Bitcoin world are negative, which is what the general populace consumes.
Recently, there was a new face at BitcoinSYD [Sydney’s meeting group]. He must have been a “baby-boomer” and looked like a bit of a larrikin, not the type of people that normally come to the meetings. He was asking lots of well-targeted questions about securing and buying Bitcoins. He chatted with a bunch of people and said that will probably come back again soon. This is a perfect example of the general population becoming more and more aware of Bitcoin in Australia.
What do you think about the growth of Bitcoin’s price? Will it keep going up steady?
I really wear four different Bitcoin hats. Firstly, it’s BitPOS: from our perspective, merchants are protected against any currency fluctuation by the very nature of the way BitPOS operates. We’re currently targeting low ticket items so price increases won’t sting the end customer too much. Secondly, comes BitcoinSYD, where we think “Wow, the price is skyrocketing! What’s causing it? Is the market expanding? Should we wait to buy or sell?”. Then, comes Bitcoin Australia, where we believe Bitcoin is a strong, innovative technology that will only continue to grow and develop. And then there’s me, who thinks “Damn, I wish I didn’t sell”.
Any forecasts for the future?
Yes, Bitcoin will be around for years and years to come.