Machankura Increases African Bitcoin Adoption Without Internet
How nearly 3,000 Africans have adopted Bitcoin—often called “the internet of money” – without actually having access to the internet?
The answer lies with Machankura, a tool built by software developer Kgothatso Ngako to use Bitcoin with nothing but a feature phone. No computer, smartphone or Internet service required.
“I had set up a raspberry pi running both a Bitcoin and Lightning node and was trying to figure out what I could build on top of it,” Ngako shared Decrypt via direct message. “A USSD project was exciting because quite a few African Bitcoiners were already talking about building a wallet for feature phone users.”
The challenge was accepted on Twitter.
USSD stands for Unstructured Supplementary Service Data, a protocol used in telecommunications networks to send short text messages. It’s similar to Interactive Voice Response, which a mobile network operator’s customer service can tell you which numbers to dial to access a particular service, but in text form.
With Machankura, mobile phone users across a number of African countries can access the app by dialing a specific code, depending on their location and the service they wish to access. Services include sending or receiving Bitcoin, checking your balance, or even exchanging Bitcoin for goods and services on Bit refill.
The tool can even interact with Lightning network, a layer-2 payment system that enables instant and virtually free Bitcoin transactions.
Ngako chose a UX solution called The lightning address to enable phone users to easily identify lightning addresses for both sending and receiving satoshis. Standard instant invoices look like long random strings of text that need to be copied and pasted, a feature that phone users don’t have.
The developer said there are now 2,900 people using Machankura, spread across 8 countries where it is active: Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia. Going by numbers previously posted from the app’s Twitter page, that’s a 10X increase since August.
As Bitcoin adoption grows, tools like Machankura can expand to serve one Assumed 2.9 billion people on earth who still lack internet access.
“I think the tool can help ‘Bitcoin the un-Bitcoined,'” Ngako opined. “Payment technology is very dependent on network effects. Both receiver and sender need the ability to send and receive for the payment technology to be used.”