What is WorldCoin? The new crypto craze that has Kenyans rushing to have their eyes scanned

What is WorldCoin? The new crypto craze that has Kenyans rushing to have their eyes scanned

Kaleem, 22, an engineer in Bengaluru, signs up for WorldCoin by having his eyes scanned by the spherical device in Mantri Square Mall in Bengaluru, India July 25, 2023. REUTERS/Medha Singh

Kenyans seem to have been swept up by a new crypto wave which has seen hundreds of people queuing at public malls to register for what has now been identified as 'WorldCoin.'

On Twitter and Instagram, people have been sharing photos and videos of desperate Kenyans thronging WorldCoin outlets for registration and cash incentives, with the crowds getting exceptionally large in Thika.

The start-up, which has so far raised close to about $250 million (approx. Ksh.35 billion) mainly offers World ID, an AI-resistant protocol that allows the verification of the identity of humans online through an iris scan and has set up over 30 stations across Nairobi and other towns to on board Kenyans.

The company is describing this service as a “digital passport” that helps prove its holder is a real human, not an AI bot using its physical imaging device called the ‘Orb.’

To incentivise people to sign up, WorldCoin is doing a giveaway (Airdrop) of their digital currency WLD. Everyone who signs up and gets verified, receives, according to Saruni Maina, a fintech expert, 26WLD.

This latest drive is reminiscent to the 'Public Likes' mass hysteria which swept across Kenya several years ago.

‘Public Likes’ was a Ponzi Scheme-style website on which users earned merely by clicking on ‘adverts.’

Users of the site got paid by simply clicking on the adverts or Paid-to-click (PTC) - the money they received was allegedly payment made by advertisers for every click, or what is known as Pay per Click (PPC).

Kenyans in their millions rushed to sign up, recruiting their friends and family in a hysteric cyber mess which eventually crumbled, leaving many in despair.

Jobless and desperate, gullible Kenyans have been rushing to get an WorldCoin iris scan, oblivious of what they are getting themselves into, merely for the promise of making a quick buck immediately after.

While it has not been made explicitly clear just how much money Kenyans are getting rewarded with, Saruni Maina says Kenyans are pocketing about Ksh.7,000 just for signing up.

"On top of that, WorldCoin is giving away a further 25WLD every week in what they are calling a WorldCoin Grants. Which means, Kenyans can cash in KES 7,000 every week," he tweeted.

One of the key features of WorldCoin’s entry into Kenya is the launch of a peer-to-peer (P2P) exchange that allows individuals to quickly and easily access digital currencies and US dollars directly with one another, without the need for a centralized third party to facilitate the transactions.

"Kenya is the financial and tech hub of East Africa, and there’s a strong, natural interest here in the technologies that are shaping the global digital economy," Wangechi Mwangi, Market Manager for TFH in support of WorldCoin East Africa, said.

"WorldCoin is a good example of that kind of technology, not only because of the service it provides but because, through the engagement of Tools for Humanity, it allows Kenyans to learn more about cutting-edge financial and identity products," it stated.

The cryptocurrency industry in Kenya has been steadily growing in recent years, with a rising number of crypto projects and increasing adoption by the general population.

In 2022, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimated that there were around 4 million active cryptocurrency users in the country, the then highest in Africa, and that this number is expected to continue to rise over time.

The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC) has since urged caution as Kenyans rush to sign up for WorldCoin.

“The ODPC is aware that WorldCoin has now been launched and is processing sensitive personal data in a manner that requires a demonstration of proper safeguards under the Data Protection Act, 2019," Data Commissioner Immaculate Kassait said in a statement on Friday.

"As the ODPC conducts its assessment of WorldCoin's practices to ensure compliance with the law, Kenyans are urged to ensure that they receive proper information before disclosing any personal or sensitive data. Individuals are advised to thoroughly inquire about how their data will be used."

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ODPC WorldCoin World ID Crypto

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