Residents of Indonesia can now buy and receive bitcoin over the counter at over 10,000 'Indomaret' convenience stores around the country.
According to Bitcoin Indonesia founder Oscar Darmawan, this now puts bitcoin within easier reach of the country's large unbanked population, estimated at over 200 million.
According to the World Bank's Financial Inclusion Data from 2011, only 20% of Indonesians aged 15 years or over have an account with a formal financial institution. Given that Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous country with a population of 250 million, that is a huge number of people in need of a better payments network.
A system for the unbanked
Users of the service will first need to create an account with Bitcoin.co.id, then select 'Top-up via Indomaret'. They are then provided with a code to take to their nearest Indomaret convenience store, along with some cash, before returning to their online account where they will find their bitcoin waiting.
To those living in a world of electronic bank transfers, this payment method may seem a little time consuming. However, it is not a lot different than a trip to a bitcoin ATM and, if the only method of making payments available to you is the cash in your hand, it may be the easiest onramp to bitcoin's international network.
The only 'catch' with the system is that to use the convenience store option, customers currently must have Internet access to use the exchange. Darmawan indicated that another product is in the pipeline to enable those without even web resources to source the digital currency.
Bitcoin's rise in Indonesia
Bitcoin.co.id has grown markedly since it began operations last December. At that time, bitcoin was little-known in Indonesia and the exchange traded only about 5 BTC per day.
Bitcoin's public prominence in Indonesia is thanks to the advocacy efforts of local enthusiasts like Darmawan, meeting with regulators and signing up merchants.
That project has also been successful so far: its latest addition is the BitTour travel services agency, which allows tourists to pay for flights, trains, tours and hotel accommodation.
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