bitcoin
Officials across the nation are expressing concern over the latest technology on the internet: virtual currency.

Bitcoins are the one of the most common recognized digital currencies available on the web today. Disguised behind encrypted computer programs, the coins are becoming harder to find since their introduction in 2008. Once a user discovers a coin, they are able to store it in an online account.

The currency and any individual using it are untraceable and are garnering attention from authorities worldwide. Users of the currency remain anonymous through the use of identification numbers. Once a user knows the identification of another user, funds may be transferred to the receiver’s digital “wallet.” There are currently no restrictions on the types of products that may be purchased.

Investigations over the past few weeks have revealed the use of the currency to obtain illegal items including guns and drugs. But representatives of the Bitcoin Foundation argue that the currency is also being used for good.

The foundation currently operates as a self-governing institution that has been declared impenetrable by its creators. They maintain that the organization was founded in order to provide individuals with the ability to utilize their finances away from political oversight and other forms of outside influence.

Despite recent focus on illegal transactions using the currency, Bitcoins are also used for everyday purchases such as plane tickets and groceries. Currently, each coin is worth an estimated $1000 and is accepted at over 200 online retailers. Despite their worth, the number of coins available is severally limited.

Only 21 million coins were created and nearly 11 million have been found so far. If the remaining 10 million coins are found and retain a worth of at least $1000, then at least $10 billion of free money continues to await discovery. The potential impact on world poverty is startling.

The remaining Bitcoins could provide nearly 90 percent of UNICEF’s yearly budget ($11.7 billion.) It could cover the costs of both the World Food Programme ($4 billion) and the United Nation’s Development Programme ($5 billion.)

At its current rate, a third of the $30 billion annual windfall to end world hunger could also be paid.

– Jasmine D. Smith

Sources: ABC News, Huffington Post, Bitcoin Foundation