Money talks but not that loudly if you’re a member of the LGBTI community. Today, LGBTI spending is estimated to be worth a huge US$4.6 trillion (a fact Time Out Hong Kong has touched on in other interviews). Yet with discrimination still an issue, LGBTI individuals can’t always be open about their sexuality. This isolates them and leaves the broader community unable to maximise its economic clout.
Hong Kong’s LBGT Foundation thinks cryptocurrencies can help. It believes the blockchain technology underpinning cryptocurrencies likes Bitcoin can be used to promote equality for the the city’s sexual minorities. We speak to Christof Wittig, one of the foundation’s co-founders, to learn how...
Hi, Christof. Can you tell readers a bit about how you became active in this specific area of LGBTI activities?
I’ve been an entrepreneur all my life. In 2011 I started Hornet, now the leading premier gay social network site with 25 million members. We incorporated it in 2011 in Hong Kong and our headquarters is still based here. Hornet is one of the leading innovators when it comes to utilising technology to help, in our case, gay men, improve their lives and having more meaningful connections. The LGBT Foundation was instigated by Hornet. As possibly the most sophisticated tech LGBT company in the world, we understand technology; we understand what is of concern to the LGBT community, particularly the gay community; and we understand how technology can help.
So how would you describe blockchain technology – in simple terms – and what are its benefits for the LGBTI community?
A blockchain is like a database or spreadsheet in the cloud. It’s not on a corporate server or a government server. It’s a record that can’t be altered or tampered with by someone else. And that sounds very trivial but it’s actually quite revolutionary. Today, data is owned by corporations or governments. Blockchains allow groups like the LGBT community to self-organise around its accounts and control its identity and economic power.
How exactly does the foundation plan to use this technology to promote equality?
The records stored in the blockchain don’t reveal your identity. Blockchains can demonstrate the size of the LGBT community – in a way that doesn’t endanger its individual members by revealing their name – and its economic strength. Also, the foundation will generate an annuity of new funds every year in new token generations. That will go to fund non-profit causes that are dear to the LGBT community.
How will the foundation decide the allocation of those funds?
The core idea is, at this juncture, that the holders of tokens will decide the use of these funds. Say we want to give more money to groups in Indonesia or Russia, or to local schools or to transgender causes, we envision a democratic voting mechanism and we want to pair initiatives with crowdsourcing mechanisms.
Is global interconnectedness on the rise among the LGBT community?
Absolutely. As I mentioned, lockchains are stateless and borderless. There’s no government involvement or corporation controlling things. Here, we are basically all equal and we all self-decide about our own identity and we can self-organise ourselves without respect to constraints.
And when will tokens be available for anyone interested?
Much of it rests in the hands of lawyers, but we’re on target to start selling in the second half of April.
For more information, visit lgbt-token.org.