Data colonisation? Why Worldcoin targets poor countries
The intriguing details behind Worldcoin’s recent wave in Kenya, offering Sh7,000 in free cash upon registration, have come to light, shedding light on the company’s early success in gaining half a million users.
Nairobi News has discovered that Worldcoin’s initial users were primarily registered in Indonesia during a social assistance giveaway project launched by the company in December 2021.
This raises questions as to why the bulk of initial registrations originated in Indonesia, despite Worldcoin being headquartered in Berlin, Germany. The company boasts a substantial Sh17 billion fund collected from nine investors to distribute to users.
Worldcoin does not operate in the United States and China, as these countries impose stringent data protection regulations.
Among the investors backing the company are Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures, Multicoin Capital, Hashed, I confirmation, Day One Ventures, Bossanova Investments, Coinfund, and Hypersphere Ventures.
The company has strategically targeted countries facing economic challenges, particularly third-world nations where individuals are willing to share personal data in exchange for financial benefits. Besides Indonesia, they have set their sights on countries such as Kenya, Sudan, Ghana, Chile, and Norway.
“Worldcoin is an attempt at global scale alignment, the journey will be challenging and the outcome is uncertain. But finding new ways to broadly share the coming technological prosperity is a critical challenge of our time. We hope you’ll join us,” states a statement on its launch website.
During the registration process, Worldcoin representatives in Indonesia and other targeted countries, including Kenya, collected emails and phone numbers. They used futuristic metal ORBs to scan villagers’ irises and other biometric data. Once biometric data was collected, they distributed various incentives to locals, such as cash and Airpods, promising them future wealth. In some instances, payments were made to local government officials.
However, Worldcoin’s public messaging on user privacy protection appears inconsistent with the experiences reported by some users. A Kenyan user, E.N., shared that his account was closed after a prolonged registration process using the ORB.
“I am still planning when I will go and register so that I can also get the coins. I got excited when my friends managed to get cash after the whole process of registration,” he told Nairobi News.
Another user, M.M., successfully retrieved the cash and is knowledgeable about the money withdrawal process.
“I long ago withdrew the money and used it. I received Sh5553,” he said.
Worldcoin maintains that anyone registered after undergoing the iris scan receives a fair share of money and other products.
However, as the company’s intentions remain murky, users remain cautious about the risks and potential rewards associated with this unorthodox digital venture.