A screenshot of the Worldcoin website showing Kenyan subscribers registering for their services.

| Courtesy | World Coin

Why Kenyans are scanning their eyeballs for Sh7,000 Worldcoin cryptocurrency tokens

The internet has this week been awash with news of a new cryptocurrency that awards free tokens for scanning eyeballs to verify one’s humanity, and Kenyans are going crazy about it.

Worldcoin, which launched on Monday, July 24, awards users with free tokens, referred to as WLD, once they verify their humanity by scanning their eyeballs using machines located in specified places across some 35 countries around the globe, Kenya being one of them.

They can then transfer these tokens to official crypto exchanges, like Binance, and use them to buy other cryptocurrencies, which can then be cashed out through liquidity agents on those platforms or sold to other users, and there comes the free money.

At their current value, the first free 25 WLD tokens would translate to about Sh7,786.

James Makau, a bodaboda rider from Ruaka, showed the Saturday Nation that he had earned Sh6,461 after signing up and scanning his iris. He used his free tokens to buy USDT, another cryptocurrency, which he then sold to get Kenya shillings.

On Friday, hundreds of Kenyans flocked at least 13 Quickmart outlets in Nairobi to scan their eyeball to be able to get the free tokens offered by the new platform. Quickmart outlets are where the Orbs – the unique eye scanning machines – are stationed in Kenya.

As the Saturday Nation team arrived at Quickmart Thome outlet along Northern by-pass, young people in their twenties and thirties were patiently waiting to be attended to .

“I was here by 5am because there has been a lot of talk on TikTok and Instagram about the free money Worldcoin is giving all those who download their App and subscribe, we are waiting for the iris scanner to arrive so that we can be sorted,” Brian Mwangi, a resident of Kiambu said.

“When you hear someone is giving out ‘free’ money just so that you can join their App, you have nothing to lose, I don’t mind the fact that all they are asking for is to scan my iris,” said Ms Virginia Ng’ang’a, who graduated from university last year and is yet to get a job.

Co-founded by Sam Altman, CEO of text-based artificial intelligence platform ChatGPT’s developer OpenAI, Worldcoin says it wants to give everyone on earth access to the global economy, by giving them a verified digital identity, free cryptocurrency tokens and a crypto wallet.

Their whitepaper says the concept was to create a digital currency that would be more inclusive and accessible to people worldwide, regardless of their socio-economic status or access to traditional banking systems.

Its founders, Altman and Alex Blania, explain that advances in artificial intelligence (AI) have made it increasingly difficult to tell whether online activity came from real humans or AI, necessitating the “proof of personhood” through the retinal scans.

It verifies a user’s identity by scanning their iris to create personal, secure identification codes, which is referred to as “World ID”.

The codes are saved on a decentralised blockchain, and the company claims they cannot be duplicated or spoofed to create false identities or engage in fraud, according to its privacy policy statement.

“The goal is simple: A global financial and identity network based on proof of personhood,” Altman said on Twitter.

“This feels especially important in the AI era. I’m hopeful Worldcoin can contribute to conversations about how we share access, benefits, and governance of future AI systems.”

Nothing to lose

But do those who “verify” their identity with Worldcoin really have nothing to lose as many of them believe? Worldcoin and its founders themselves don’t know this yet.

“The journey will be challenging and the outcome is uncertain,” says an introduction statement by Altman and Blania on their website.

The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC) yesterday cautioned Kenyans against just sharing their “sensitive personal data” before they receive proper information on how their data will be used.