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In recent days, OneFeather, an indigenous technology company headquartered in British Columbia, Canada, has teamed up with BlocPal International, a blockchain savvy digital transactions company, also of British Columbia, to announce a new app, which will serve as a comprehensive digital wallet.
“The Indigenous communities have been at a considerable disadvantage with banking accessibility and its associated costs,” said OneFeather founder Lewis in a statement. “Having the ability to use this digital wallet for multiple uses will provide a place for First Nations to launch and run businesses, have control over their finances, and be a part of digital banking options. BlocPal’s strong technology perfectly complements our value proposition resulting in an innovative digital wallet for members of the community.”
The History of Digital Wallets
Digital wallets are older than blockchain technology, although the connection between the two is a natural one. Digital wallets began in 1997, a decade before the invention of bitcoin and, as part of the bitcoin ecosystem, of blockchain tech. The first digital wallet was created in Helsinki, Finland in 1997, the place and time when the soft drink giant Coca-Cola created a digital payment system encompassing several of its vending machines. Customers were encouraged to include the “wallet” in their cell phones, so they could interact with the vending machines by text message.
As that example indicates, much of the development of digital wallets has been at the initiative of merchants, who for a lot of reasons find them convenient. Interactions between cell phones and vending machines, for example, can eliminate or at least reduce the need to keep physical cash, coins or wallets, in the machine. This can in turn reduce the temptation for thieves, and eliminate the need for regular pick-ups of the cash.
In the decades since, merchant-driven digital wallets have become ubiquitous. Influential examples come from Starbucks, Walmart, and Dunkin’ Donuts. There are also wallets from issuers: Wells Fargo, Chase, and Capital Ones. Third, there are wallets centered in the payers and their phones or other devices: (Samsung Pay, Android Pay, Apple Pay, etc.).
The lines among those three types can blur. The creation of the new OneFeather blockchain-supported app indicates how far the digital wallet idea has come from its humble origin in Helsinki in ’97. This is not a substitute for the coins one might otherwise drop into the slot of a vending machine: It is a much taller order, a substitute for conventional banking.
An Empowering App and Wallet
The app includes a digital rewards currency, the OneFeather token, which will provide incentives based on wallet usage. The companies see this as an empowerment of individuals within the indigenous nations, designed specifically for their benefit and wealth management, addressing a concern that indigenous people have been underserved by the banking system. There are approximately 2 million indigenous people in Canada, and 15% of them are unbanked. Many (44%) live on reserves, where it can be difficult to access traditional financial services.
The BlocPal Team
The chief executive of OneFeather’s partner, BlocPal, is Nick Mellios. Mellios, who is also a director of Factory Games Ltd., and a former CEO of Mojo Games, has MBAs both from the University of British Columbia and from HEC in Paris.
In the statement announcing the partnership of OneFeather and BlocPal, Mellios said, “Our goal at BlocPal is to continue to increase financial inclusivity in the communities who need it most.”
Mellios’ team at BlocPal includes Mike Edwards, executive vice president, and Sushant Trivedi, the chief marketing officer, also a veteran of brand management at Proctor & Gamble. Their lead blockchain engineer, Randy Du, holds both Masters and Ph.D. degrees in physics from Shanghai University of Technology.