Bitwalking is a mobile app that promises to pay people for walking. Payments are made in digital crypto-currency ‘Bitwalking dollars’. Could this open up a new source of fundraising income for charities?
The idea behind Bitwalking is to encourage and reward people for keeping healthy by walking. The more they walk they more they earn. Instead of ‘mining’ Bitcoins by running a computer programme, Bitwalkers will be able to mine or generate income in Bitwalking Dollars simply by walking.
For many it is not the route to instant riches: Bitwalking pays 1 BW$ for every 10,000 steps, or about five miles. As a result, it is going to be hard to generate more than a few dollars a day. But in some countries, such a sum represents a life-changing opportunity. In Malawi, for example, one of the countries in which Bitwalking is launching, the average rural wage is just $1.5 (£1) a day.
Given the need for many to walk to work or to fetch water, the idea of earning income while walking could significantly boost their income.
Who created it?
Nissan Bahar and Franky Imbesi are the founders of Bitwalking and they have already secured $10 million in investment, mostly from Japanese investors. Also Japanese electronics manufacturer Murata is developing a wearable wristband for those who do not have a smartphone.
They have a track record in the form of Keepod, a USB stick that costs just $7 and yet functions like a computer. Launched last year it is now in use in 87 countries.
Fundraising by walking?
The app and its crypto-currency currently only let people spend their accumulated Bitwalking dollars in the company’s online store. Alternatively people can buy other people’s Bitwalking dollars, with traditional currency, to boost their total to spend on items in the shop.
There are at least three ways in which Bitwalking could be used in a philanthropic manner.
1. It is not a large leap to see how this app, if it takes off and works as promised, could let thousands of people generate income and then donate their Bitwalking dollars to charities. Large sums are raised for charity from sponsored walks and runs. Bitwalking could boost the income for charity from those walks.
2. Bitwalking could also generate year-round income for charities from supporters walking to work or walking for pleasure throughout the week. It could offer a simple method of regular giving.
3. Bitwalking users could donate their Bitwalking dollars to people in developing countries along the lines of Kiva, to offer them a loan to establish or grow a business.
Sadly there are no charity partnerships listed as the app is launched in its first tranche of countries. There is talk of partnerships with sportswear brands, health insurance companies, and health companies, plus of course even more advertisers would might like to reach an active and healthy audience. Indeed, the app will likely generate a great deal of data on people’s activity habits, which could similarly be useful to advertisers.
That said, Nissan Bahar told the BBC “That won’t be for sale. We may explore offering advertisers the opportunity to focus on different groups depending on how active they are, but we won’t pass on any information relating to individual’s movements.”
UK Fundraising asked Bitwalking if it had plans for charity fundraising partnerships but we haven’t received a response.
Can it be hacked?
No doubt you’ll already have thought – can the app be hacked? Could I give my phone to someone to walk around with all day and maybe share the income? Can I do that with several smartphones? What about jiggling the phone around while stationary?
The developers have apparently ensured that these and other misuses of the app will not generate income. At the same time, this might restrict its ability to be used by people in wheelchairs.
Where does the money come from?
More importantly, will the app be sustainable? It all depends on the crypto-currency being accepted by a range of providers and for start-up funding to continue to enable it to become self-sustaining.
While perpetual motion can’t of course exist, Bitwalking might at least for a while help charities raise funds from the perpetual motion of its supporters.
Here is BBC Click’s report on Bitwalking from 21 November:
Posted by Bitwalking on Saturday, 21 November 2015
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