Bitcoin has become well established as a currency for daily transactions on the Isle of Man, a U.K. dependency in the Irish Sea that aspires to be a global cryptocurrency leader, according to The Independent, the U.K. newspaper. The Isle of Man, known to some as “Bitcoin Island,” boasts a progressive government, outstanding technological expertise, and an exceptional Internet infrastructure.
Close to 25 startups on the island are using cryptocurrencies. In Douglas, the capital city with 27,000 residents, businesses accepting bitcoin include a coffee shop, a chauffeur service and a pub.
For customers to pay with bitcoin, a business must provide a receipt producing a conversion from pounds and a square QR code. The customer uses a mobile phone app to read the code and send the required bitcoin payment from their virtual cryptocurrency wallet. The transaction takes three or four seconds longer to complete than a conventional payment.
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The company that installed the payment system at Java Express, a coffee shop, told The Independent it has processed thousands of pounds worth of coffees.
A Global Digital Currency Leader
In some jurisdictions, including the U.K., people remain more cautious about digital currencies. The Isle of Man, however, has set out to be the global digital currency leader.
Legislation took effect last month requiring cryptocurrency businesses to register with the government and agree to an inspection by its financial regulator. The law marks the completion of a two-year process for what Isle of Man lawmakers claim to be the first regulatory framework to enable digital currencies to be a game changer.
The Isle of Man has an advantage in being able to enact legislation and provide the necessary oversight faster than other jurisdictions, according to Brian Donegan, the head of the government’s department of economic development.
The country has moved fast on cryptocurrency because it recognizes its potential, Donegan said. “This technology is transformational and we want to be in the lead.”
A Transforming Economy
A few decades ago, the economy for the island relied on agriculture, fishing and tourism, the polar opposite of the hub of technological globalization that it now embraces.
Low tax rates and a willingness to modernize has brought a growth rate that is three times that of the U.K. over the past three decades. In the 1990s, the Isle of Man cornered the market for satellite operators. In recent years, it has hosted online gambling companies. Electronic gaming currently represents 16.7% of the £4.1bn GDP.
Several global Internet cables run between Ireland and Britain that the Isle of Man sits within. This robust infrastructure, a pragmatic government and financial and technological expertise combine to support the island’s “cryptocurrency goldrush.”
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