Dash Text, a mobile/SMS-based platform for sending and receiving payments of the Dash (DASH) cryptocurrency in Venezuela, has finished beta testing and has gone live, according to social media posts from the startup.
The platform is notable in that it can function without a smartphone, and without an internet connection - only a cellular connection is required. The user can both send and receive funds to/from either a Dash public address, or a Venezuelan phone number associated with an address through the Dash Text system. The use of the user's telephone number as an address is therefore completely optional.
These features are important in a country where, according to Dash Text, 47% of the population does not have Internet access, and 60% do not have smartphones. And due to the well known economic difficulties in Venezuela, 7% of Venezuelans - again according to Dash Text - rely on remittances to survive.
Indeed, according to World Bank data, between 2014 and 2017 remittances to Venezuela from abroad climbed from $128 million to $293 million. This figure corresponds to the 2014 collapse in oil prices - crude oil sold abroad made up over 90% of Venezuela’s exports, although that export industry is now in a state of collapse.
(Remittances to Venezuela over time, in millions of dollars; source: World Bank)
Usability over trustless-ness
There is hardly any signup process to speak of for Venezuelans to begin using the service, and users are required only to text “Dash” to a phone number to be issued a Dash wallet accessible to them via their phone number. The service is completely free to use, costing only the price to send a SMS text message over their mobile network.
These benefits have a downside, however, as the system is not completely trustless. Lead developer Lorenzo Rey confirmed this in a discussion thread on the Dash community funding forum, which Dash Text benefited from. Rey wrote that “We wish there was a way to do this in a completely trustless way, however that's not possible.”
Dash Text uses BlockCypher, a blockchain-focused web services company, to generate Dash addresses and private keys, and Karen Hsu, head of growth at BlockCypher, explained in an interview that “the private keys that we generate [for Dash Text] are not stored anywhere [...] we definitely do not do any kind of private key management, we throw away the keys after you have them.” Dash Text private keys are therefore linked to a phone number and then lost (according to BlockCypher). In effect, ownership of the phone number becomes the private key to Dash Text.
The service has been available durings its beta period on the Movistar network, with plans for adoption on all of Venezuela’s mobile networks, as well countries outside Venezuela that “most need [the service]” - the first of these slated to be Ghana, according to Rey.
Dash Text reportedly has plans to integrate its service into the Whatsapp and Telegram mobile messengers, as well as designs on point-of-sale terminals.