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Cornell Initiative to Research Bitcoin's Potential in Promoting Financial Freedom

Cornell Initiative to Research Bitcoin's Potential in Promoting Financial Freedom

May 16, 2024

Cornell Initiative to Research Bitcoin's Potential in Promoting Financial Freedom

Cornell University's Brooks School Tech Policy Institute (BTPI) has launched a research initiative aimed at exploring the concept of financial freedom in jurisdictions governed by authoritarian regimes. Funded by a $1 million grant, the project will delve into how individuals utilize Bitcoin and stablecoins to secure their financial autonomy.

Led by BTPI Director Sarah Kreps, who is the John L. Wetherill Professor in the Department of Government at Cornell's College of Arts & Sciences and the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy, the study will combine quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. Professor Kreps emphasized the relevance of the research by stating, “If you live in a place where the government silences its critics by threatening their assets or where you cannot trust the local banking system, you understand the importance of financial freedom to democracy.”

The project, which is scheduled to commence in July 2024 and conclude in 2026, is supported by contributions from the Human Rights Foundation and the Reynolds Foundation. The research aims to develop a Bitcoin and stablecoins adoption index to track and analyze their global uptake.

Dr. Álvaro Salas Castro, president and CEO of the Reynolds Foundation and a Cornell alumnus, underscored the importance of the Tech Policy Institute's role in examining the interplay between emerging technologies and international politics. Dr. Salas Castro noted, "As Bitcoin adoption continues to exert influence over the global economic system, the Institute's steadfast commitment to fostering collaboration among scholars, policymakers, and industry leaders aligns seamlessly with the Reynolds Foundation's vision."

The study will center on approximately 12 countries, including India, Nigeria, El Salvador, Indonesia, and Turkey. It will involve surveying 1,000 individuals in each nation to assess not only their adoption behaviors but also their perceptions and attitudes towards Bitcoin. A team, including undergraduate students, will conduct in-depth interviews to gain further insights into the reasons behind its use.

Alex Gladstein, the chief strategy officer at the Human Rights Foundation, expressed enthusiasm for the innovative research. In a tweet, Gladstein conveyed excitement about the project, saying, “Exciting to see HRF and the Reynolds Foundation support @sekreps at @Cornell's Tech Policy Institute as she spearheads pioneering research to understand who is using Bitcoin around the world under repressive regimes, and for what reasons. Stay tuned!”

The goals of this research are multifaceted, seeking to increase understanding of Bitcoin adoption drivers, inform stakeholders about regulatory and product development considerations, enhance financial services access, and raise public awareness about the technology's benefits.

The research will explore various hypotheses regarding why citizens in authoritarian countries might turn to Bitcoin, with an eye toward understanding the motivations, goals, and whether these factors vary by region or government type.

Cornell Announcement


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