Norway is such a beautiful country and has been named a top summer tourist destination for those in search of picturesque mountains, fjords, and glaciers. But how is the Bitcoin scene fairing in this small Scandinavian country rich in natural resources and warm at heart?
An Interview with Therese Helland
This August I had the privilege of meeting Therese Helland, a Bitcoin and blockchain consultant based in Oslo, Norway. I’ve traveled to Norway several times to visit family and have been curious about the Bitcoin ecosystem there. Therese recently was elected to the board of the Norway Bitcoin Association.
She is currently creating a coworking space near her cafe in Oslo for a place for innovators to meet, work and discuss decentralization, blockchain technology, and cryptocurrencies.
Therese and the Norwegian Bitcoin Foundation hosted an event this past weekend in the new coworking space. They helped individuals download Bitcoin wallets and helped them pay for coffee and treats with Bitcoin at Therese’s Bitcoin-accepting cafe. As the year is coming to close, I asked Therese her view of the Norwegian Bitcoin ecosystem and the Norwegian Bitcoin Foundation’s plans for 2017 and beyond.
Elizabeth McCauley: Can you share when and how you first learned about Bitcoin?
Therese Helland: Having a background in IT, Bitcoin was something that had been lingering in the back of my mind for years without me paying too much attention. When I finished an IT consulting contract at the beginning of this year, I took some time off and was on the lookout for something meaningful to be my next endeavor. By coincidence, I was introduced to blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. I went to a conference and was sold immediately. Since then I have been engaging in all sorts of initiatives within this exciting area of new technology.
EM: What is the easiest way to buy and sell Bitcoin in Norway? How many exchanges and brokerages services are there?
TH: There is BitMynt and LocalBitcoins. Also, some people are using international exchanges such as Kraken, Poloniex, Coinbase, Bittrex, etc.
EM: Are there any merchants and businesses accepting Bitcoin in Norway?
TH: Not many. The Norwegian Bitcoin Foundation is maintaining a list and adding new merchants as they are made aware of them.
Apart from that, global trade gives more possibilities for Norwegians to use Bitcoin.
EM: How is Bitcoin currently used in Norway? For an investment and trading or for everyday use?
TH: Mostly investment/trading by a select few as far as I know. Generally, Norway is a little slow in the adoption, and as in many other places, there is a largely untapped market within remittance.
EM: Can you share more about the Norway Bitcoin Association? How was it founded? What is the makeup of the organization
TH: The Norwegian Bitcoin Foundation (Norges Bitcoinforening) is a non-profit organisation founded in July 2016. More or less, the organisation is for everyone who is interested in Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies and techniques. It´s functions are to spread knowledge and interest in Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrency techniques in society.
EM: We heard in October news of bank account closures for Bitcoin-related businesses in Norway. Can you comment on this and if anything has changed? Can Bitcoin exchanges in Norway obtain a Norwegian Bank Account?
TH: As far as I know, there are no formal rules prohibiting Norwegian banks to offer bank accounts to Bitcoin exchanges. However, if you are referring to one of the largest banks, DnB, closing the account of the Norwegian Bitcoin Foundation, it is true that they did on the basis that they could not be sure that the association’s money (a total deposit of about $100 at the time) has no connection with money laundering or terror activities. More information about the course of events can be found in this article (in Norwegian, but Google translate is quite good).
EM: Can you comment on the government’s current view of Bitcoin in Norway?
TH: The government’s knowledge on Bitcoin appears to still be relatively limited, and they haven´t yet issued a specific official view of Bitcoin.
EM: What do you see needs to be done to make Bitcoin more mainstream in Norway?
TH: The main obstacle is that there is a 25% VAT being charged for exchanging between NOK and BTC, and this must be removed. Furthermore, I believe it is important to increase the knowledge amongst the general public, as well as the other tasks the Norwegian Bitcoin Foundation has set out to undertake.
Educating the general public and raising their awareness of decentralised technologies and legal, philosophical and economical alternatives to how we currently live is also an important task, and what we are aiming to house in our new coworking and community center, The Kasbah Hub.
EM: Are larger financial institutions in Norway looking into Blockchain applications?
TH: Most of them are looking into it, but no one has any known concrete products to this date as far as I know.
EM: What do you think is the killer use case for Bitcoin?
TH: There are numerous obvious and often talked about use cases such as remittance, banking for the unbanked, etc. For me, however, the most exciting thing about Bitcoin and Blockchain Technology is the potential it has to change our way of life, for example by getting rid of unnecessary third parties in transactions between humans.
I think we are still at very early stages and that the most exciting use cases are yet to be discovered and explored, but I also believe we are at a breaking point right now and that a lot will happen in 2017 and beyond. All-in-all very exciting times, and I look forward to following the development in the months and years to come.
Norway will be Another Country to Watch in 2017
Norway is ranked the second “richest” country in Europe and is just starting to catch the Bitcoin bug. It will be interesting to see what transpires over the next few months with the Norwegian Bitcoin Foundation and the new projects underway to spread education and awareness in this small but prosperous country.
What do you think about Bitcoin’s progress in Norway? Which European country do you think will take the lead in Bitcoin adoption? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Images courtesy of Pixabay, Flickr
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