The price of bitcoin may have plumped to new lows in the last few weeks, losing as much as 80 percent from its December 2017 high, but people throughout the world are still keen on getting to understand the concept behind the leading cryptocurrency.
This week, Google published its annual Year in Search query statistics for 2018 and the biggest question of last year was “What is Bitcoin?” According to Google Trends, searches for the term “Bitcoin” have declined sharply since its peak in 2017, but users of the Internet where still intent understanding the definition of the disruptive digital asset.
The biggest bitcoin interest in the world was from users in Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Australia, and the US, in that order. Search interest from Zimbabwe was insignificant at the global scale, but the country remains a hotbed of cryptocurrency activity in Africa alongside countries like Kenya and Uganda.
As bitcoin search interest has grown in Nigeria, the west African country is also the biggest cryptocurrency market on the continent followed by South Africa and Kenya.
Nigerians have traded more than $260 million worth of bitcoin so far this year — and that’s just on one exchange, LocalBitcoins.com. If data from other crypto trading platforms was taken into account, that figure could easily double.
That Africa paces other world regions in bitcoin search interest isn’t by coincidence. The continent is generally regarded as the best use case for cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, bitcoin cash, ethereum, dash and litecoin. Fragile fiat currencies and unstable economies mean that Africans can look to bitcoin both as a store of value and hedge against inflation.
The same holds true for cross-border cash transfers. Africa boasts one the largest population of people working overseas. These people remit billions of dollars each year to take care of their families back home.
However, to do that, legacy monopoly financial institutions such as commercial banks charge an arm and a leg for similar transfers, often times as much as 10 percent of the total amount sent.
That compares with just $0,10 charged on transfers of any amount sent through the Bitcoin Cash network. It means one can send $10 000 through the network for just 10 cents. Your traditional money transfer agency would make off with anything up to $1 000 of your hard-earned money.
Now as the mobile smartphone penetration rate as well as internet usage rates rise in Africa, the continent of 1,2 billion people is tipped to become a key growth area of cryptocurrency adoption and use. Take Zimbabwe, for example. The Republic is most famous within the ecosystem as a fantastic use case: its currency so hyper-inflated it is now officially canned and out of circulation.
The Zimbabwean dollar has become a cautionary symbol, often employed by cryptocurrency zealots as a way to show the folly of faith in politicians controlling an economy.
If there’s an upside to such a phenomenon, Zimbabweans have become practical monetary experts out of necessity. Half of all transactions involve paper money, and for the domestic population they’ve become accustomed to exchanging US dollars, South African rand, Botswana pula, euro, Chinese renminbi, Indian rupees, pound sterling, Australian dollars . . . you get the idea.
In the Google Trends survey, people also asked what Ethereum is and searched for information on Bitcoin forks as well in the related queries section. Other related topics include the “stock market,” “exchange-traded funds (ETF),” and cryptocurrency “debit cards.”
If a citizen of the US searched for the definition of bitcoin, the search engine would likely respond this way: “(Bitcoin) is a type of digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, operating independently of a central bank.”
Then you get ancillary explanations through a glut of Bitcoin-related YouTube videos, images and other material.
Last year bitcoin was one of the most searched for items on Google, after the price of the digital coin reached an all time high of $20 00.
However, since the price plunged to just $3 400 in the last few days interest in the technology also lost momentum, as reflected in waning “Bitcoin” Google searches. There was one cryptocurrency related query that topped Google’s Year in Search results for 2018, however, and that was: “What is Bitcoin?”