Can someone please Wiki this so that there can be some systematic collaboration?
Slashdot videos: Now with more Slashdot!
A method of doing this effectively is discussed here, where the success of the system is not dependent on a particular value for bitcoins, but only that they have some value at all.
Mod parent up--this is a seriously professional production, and it was funded through an online Bitcoin bounty to boot. Digital currency in action!
To get you up to speed:
While completely un-user-friendly at present (just take a look at Bitcoin.org whenever it comes back up), BitCoin is a phenomenon of significant scale:
Value of BitCoins in current circulation: > 5 million USD
Quantities traded daily on exchanges: in the 10's of thousands of dollars' worth daily
Bitcoin transactions on the network itself: around 10,000 BTC per hour
Computational power of the BitCoin network: 186 Ghash/sec (about 42,000 quad core CPU's, or around 2 petaFLOPS)
Active nodes right now on the p2p network: >2,600
Security: vetted by leading cryptographers as many orders of magnitude better than online banking. Cheating on a single transaction with BitCoins you already own requires you to outpace those 2 petaFLOPS above. Usurping the entire network requires you to beat the *cumulative* cycles of the network over it's whole existence. "Stealing" someone else's coins without direct access to their keys: laughable to even try and compute.
Mining/where BitCoins come from: don't be confused by this, it is as irrelevant to using them as the paper money engraving and printing process is to using cash. Many people seem to get hung up on it as the primary source of getting bitcoins, which it isn't by a long shot.. TL;DR: an open, competitive process is used to "create" the coins, with increased competition resulting in increased security so that the more valuable bitcoins become the more secure they will get. In practice this means that the cost of creating coins stays reasonably close to the market value of them. In paper money this would be like if 5$ worth of security features actually went into each individual $5 bill as opposed to the few cents that goes into the most secure paper currency, and then $100 worth of security into each individual $100 bill. Now you begin to understand why BitCoin is so much more secure than traditional banking.
Privacy: individual transactions are public, but can be split over an arbitrary # of addresses, and nobody knows who owns any addresses so in practice all transactions are completely anonymous with regards to the receiver, and you would have to be watching all connections to a given node to catch a spend, identical to traffic analysis plus discovery powers on a traditional bank. Unlike a traditional bank, BitCoin happily works over Tor and other anonymisation protocols.
And finally, the eternal question of whether BitCoin is going to seriously succeed or end up on the fringe: This is silly to pontificate on. BitCoin, like anything else on the internet, will succeed if we cause it to succeed, and fail if we ignore it. It takes a lot of hard work to establish a digital currency, and whether people put that in or not all across the web will determine what happens to BitCoin. The underlying math is provably secure; thanks to the copyfight we know that the p2p network can't be taken down by authorities. Now we just have to see if an open transaction standard that allows anyone to participate can, like the web before it, gain enough traction to matter.
"Anything and everything fuels conflict in Africa. At most, this is throwing a match into a raging fire."
But what can we, as a world community, do about it? We can't just barge in a la Iraq and impose our own order. This is something the African people have to do for themselves.
There are real and practical ways for "we as a world community" (=powerful first worlders) to make a difference, but we may not like the answers: they invariably involve giving up our artifical hegemony in world trade to actually allow economic participation by third world countries as true peers. Sit down some time with an expert 3rd world economist(yes, there are lots of them). He or she will tell you plainly that the problem is not ignorance as to what to do. It is powers that be having the will to implement what needs to happen. And until we make that requirement for change an ultimatum to our leaders, any other actions will be impotent and ineffectual.