Remember that famous quote from ‘the great philosopher’ Iron Mike? Yeah, that’s why we’re not spending too much time making nice plans. Let this be trial and error, learn by doing, get feedback, make improvements, then rinse and repeat (iterate).
So, realistically, how difficult will this be?
There will probably be lots of challenges that we haven’t even thought about yet. Assumptions we’ve made that may turn out completely different on the ground. Not only is that OK, but totally expected. We are realists after all and don’t live on hopium.
Other outstanding questions remain, such as; who can educate the shop owners about lightning? What are the ideal characteristics of “SATs volunteers”? The preference would be people local to their own villages as they will have relatively easy access to the shop owners for testing the concept and providing feedback. By being part of the local community, hopefully they will have already gained their trust in the past. We don’t yet know how many locals in different countries have an education level sufficiently broad enough to understand these concepts when they are explained to them. Going through existing charities might help, as they will be closely integrated with these communities.
Preferably, this should be a bottom-up, grassroots adoption of lightning without any leaders, i.e. decentralised “Nakamoto-style”. Since some of these communities don’t have access to high speed internet, we will provide progress updates on their behalf. The entire concept is open-sourced and can be re-used by anyone at any time. Even the Lightning Network itself is still a work in progress with some unresolved issues. That hasn’t stopped people from using it, including an entire country. As was mentioned previously, every solution requires trading off one problem for another. In the same way that Lightning and Liquid both have pros and cons. Different variations of a use case warrant different approaches. Lightning serves our needs far better here in terms of micro payments, but there are no “perfect” solutions anywhere.
We’re not developers and are not building anything, so how is any of this good for lightning?
Well, we’re focused on the users. After all, who are we building lighting for? One of the benefits of this type of experiment is that the volunteers on the ground could provide feedback on their experiences. Their output will eventually reach back to developers that are contributing towards building the Lightning Network, which in turn could provide ideas for new solutions. Due to corruption being rife with local authorities and the dependency of support from diaspora living abroad where cross-border money transfer fees are high, this is a use case where people need lightning the most. If it can’t succeed here, then where can it succeed? As such, this experiment could help the lightning developer community around the world adapt existing tools to the reality on the ground. For example, the points made earlier about situations where there are a lack of resources for backing up keys.
Another interesting fact is that less than 2% of the entire world’s population is made up of financial traders and software developers, so the question is – what about the remaining 98%? How do we improve commerce for them and solve their problems by creating a ”circular economy” on a local level? You don’t see Forex traders using mobile money, because it was created as a solution to facilitate real-world use cases and succeeded in doing so. This is why they previously went with USSD tech, as they realized that in order to gain widespread adoption, they had to adapt it for the majority of people that did not have smartphones at the time. However, in 2023 we should be thinking about better ways of solving these problems.
On the other hand, first principles thinking shows that the next-level solution might not require new tech. Maybe we already have everything we need and can solve the problems through donations from the lightning community world-wide? Harder money should improve people's financial prospects somewhat and hopefully, that could lead to more people being able to afford a cheap smartphone if the improved village “micro-economy” creates more wealth which spreads as the villagers get together and start making tangible investments to the benefit of their local area. If not, then the ‘fix the money, fix the world’ hypothesis will have been invalidated. One way or another, we will know the result and can break it down and analyze how it went.
What if they need an initial investment to afford the smartphone in the first place before they can even participate in the “SATs economy”? Perhaps they could get a one on credit and repay it with SATs donations? This could be a way for the OGs and early adopters to help foster worldwide adoption by putting their SATs to good use instead of just continuously tweeting that ‘we’re still early’ or ‘bottom’s in”.
The introduction of lightning into a small rural town in mid-western US or a remote village in Europe would probably make little or no difference to their lives. Their local government already takes care of their most basic needs. They might lack luxury goods and may not own a lot of assets, but there is usually a sewage system in place for the resident's houses, running water, the infrastructure has been built at some point in the past and access to general education for all residents is not a major issue. Internet penetration is also at extremely high levels, which is crucial in this day and age. However; if lighting were introduced into a village where all the things that we in the west take for granted are hard to come by; would there be a significant and sustainable positive impact on people’s lives and their economy? If this experiment succeeds, it would mean that practically any village in either Africa or another southern continent around the world could copy and paste the model as they may face the same type of challenges and operate in similar environments.