Monday, June 1, 2015

Why this countryside school in Finland gave its students bitcoins

Bitcoins accepted at the Café Lalla Vinde. Photo: Lalla Vinde // Used with permission.
Kemiönsaari is a municipality in the southwest of Finland far away from any metropolitan area. On the outside it looks like any other tiny countryside town in Finland, but looks can be deceiving. Kemiönsaari is at the forefront of bitcoin adoption in Finland, in this sleepy town of 7 000 people you can go out and enjoy lunch at a café and do your grocery shopping – all while paying with bitcoin. And this spring 3 000 euro was handed out to students enrolled at the local high school.

In the town center of Kemiö there are a handful companies that accept bitcoin, almost as much as in the capital Helsinki. You can grab a lunch at Café Lalla Vinde, head over to ZAS data to buy a new computer, take a zumba class at Rehab Center and then go grocery shopping at the K-Store before heading home.

Now the central school in Kemiö has decided to take it a step further giving around 40 of it's 125 students bitcoins. But why?

In Finland, every year thousands of high school students receive small cash awards either from their school or sponsored by local companies and institutions. These are usually handed out for outstanding performance in school or sports. Usually, these are given out as bank checks but with banking services moving online it's become increasingly difficult for students to cash their checks.

That's why this spring all awards at the local high school were given out in bitcoins. The principal of the high school, Ari Rintanen mentiond to that the reasoning behind the decision was threefold. First, the currency is quite useful on the island municipality, second it is a good opportunity to try something new while at the same time giving students easier access to their awards.

The local company ZAS data, run by Sami Lappalainen, helped the school with the practicalities of giving out the awards in bitcoin. As the school does not know if a student has a bank account or a bitcoin wallet address they decided to hand out the awards as paper wallets. On the thirtieth of May students at the school received envelopes containing a paper wallet and instructions on how to create his own bitcoin wallet and redeem the bitcoins.

A photo posted by Aleksi Neuvonen withdrawing his bitcoins from a LocalBitcoins ATM. (@leksis) on

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