El Salvador introduced a digital wallet known as “Chivo” on September 8, but the system was often out of order for maintenance.
It may be overburdened by the sheer number of Salvadorans looking to take advantage of the $30 bonus the government has put into each account to stimulate adoption.
Even users like street vendor Cesar Estrada, who were able to download the wallet, were unable to access bitcoins.
“After several attempts I was able to download the Chivo wallet, but I could not use the $30,” Estrada said.
Problems are not limited to technical glitches. One young worker admitted to a Chivo ATM that was set up to handle transactions just as well.
“The problems persist, but there is also a lot of misinformation,” said the worker, who identified himself only as Stephen.
“People are saying that if someone downloads the app, the government can spy on them, or even empty their bank accounts,” he said in disbelief.
“A lot of things that came into people’s minds were said, and to that I add first, the system collapsed and mistakes persisted.”
President Neb Bukele, a major promoter of cryptocurrency use, has admitted that the government’s three-month rollout may have been too ambitious. He said that technical vulnerabilities prevented the application from working on some types of phones.
“We set ourselves a goal that was too ambitious and we made mistakes,” Bukele wrote on his Twitter account.
“But we are getting things right, and hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans can now use chivowallet without any problem. And soon, everyone who wants can enjoy the benefits too.”
There have been doubts about the government’s enthusiastic adoption of bitcoin since Bukele announced it in an English-language video that was shown at the Bitcoin Conference in Miami in June.
Bitcoin undergoes large fluctuations in value within minutes.
Last week, Bitcoin joined the US dollar as a legal currency in El Salvador. Any business with the technological capacity to do so is required to accept payment in Bitcoin, but no ordinary citizen is required to use it. Recent public opinion polls in El Salvador have said that a majority of El Salvadorans are against making it an official currency.
Bukele still claims that there are now half a million users of the digital payment system in this Central American country. Visits to several fast food chains and malls in San Salvador showed that the majority of these companies accept bitcoin.
“So, everyone go out and use chivowallet!” Bukele wrote, “Anyone who can. Those who can’t, will have to wait, but it’s worth it! We are working so that the user experience is better and better.”
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