Billionaire George Soros Is Using Blockchain Technology to Help Migrants

January 25, 2018, 11:23 PM UTC

George Soros, the billionaire investor and philanthropist working to ease the global refugee crisis, said Thursday that he’s found a new way to help migrants: blockchain technology.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Soros explained how the technology underpinning cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin can play important roles in immigration.

“Blockchain technology can be put to positive use. And we use it actually in helping migrants to communicate with their families and to keep their money safe and to carry it with them,” Soros told the Davos crowd during a question-and-answer session following his speech.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the billionaire was harnessing the technology for these purposes. Soros’ Open Society Foundations, a philanthropic organization dedicated to worldwide democracy, last fall awarded a $100,000 grant to the Center for Human Rights Science at Carnegie Mellon University, which is exploring using blockchain and other new technologies to record rights violations and atrocities. (A spokesperson for Soros’ foundations did not initially respond to a request for more information.)

Blockchains are distributed ledgers that keep a secure record of transactions, whether financial or otherwise.

The most obvious way migrants could use blockchain technology to securely store money while traveling would be to convert cash into digital currency, but Soros dismissed the value of cryptocurrency, making clear he believed its primary appeal was “for tax evasion” and “the rulers of dictatorships.”

Others, however, such as angel investor and entrepreneur Naval Ravikant, have praised cryptocurrency as a means of escaping the oppression “from oligarchs and tyrants.”

An octogenarian immigrant from Hungary, Soros added: “Cryptocurrency is a misnomer and it’s a typical bubble which is always based on some kind of misunderstanding. Bitcoin is not a currency, because a currency is supposed to be a stable store of value, and a currency that can fluctuate 25% in a day can’t be used, for instance, to pay wages, because the wages could drop by 25% in a day.”

Indeed, cryptocurrencies crashed as much as 40% in a 24-hour period last week, amid a longer selloff in which the Bitcoin price has fallen to half of its peak of $20,000.

Soros’ viewpoint echoed the perspective of other influential financiers, including J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, who has called Bitcoin a “fraud” but is investing in blockchain technologies that could make various banking operations more efficient.