Italy and South Korea’s Central Banks Forge a Path in CBDC Development

The Bank of Italy and the Bank of Korea have recently formalized their collaboration through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed on December 5, 2023. This partnership marks a pivotal moment in the exploration and potential implementation of digital currencies by central banks, reflecting a growing global interest in the digitization of national currencies.

The essence of this MOU lies in mutual knowledge-sharing, specifically focusing on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as it supports real-time settlement systems and CBDCs. This cooperative venture is not the first of its kind between these two banks. Previously, they have engaged in joint efforts, such as the collaboration with the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the International Monetary Fund on a paper discussing purpose-bound money (PBM). PBM, an innovative concept in the realm of digital currencies, enables money to be earmarked for specific uses, ensuring its utilization aligns with predetermined objectives.

In parallel, the Bank of Korea has been actively engaged in the CBDC space, with notable steps taken in October, when it announced a trial of a wholesale CBDC in collaboration with the Bank of International Settlements. This initiative aims to evaluate the feasibility of using wholesale CBDCs as settlement assets for tokenized bank deposits. The pilot program is designed to explore various CBDC design models and does not necessarily indicate an imminent full-scale implementation in Korea.

On Italy’s end, the Bank of Italy has been proactively exploring the potential impacts of a CBDC on the economy. In a paper published in July, the bank examined the implications of a CBDC on residents’ choices in a small open economy, with a particular focus on the banking system and economic activity. This research forms part of Italy’s broader initiative to aid financial institutions in understanding and experimenting with tokenized assets, including partnerships with entities like Polygon Labs and Fireblocks.

In conclusion, the MOU between Italy and South Korea’s central banks is more than a bilateral agreement; it’s a reflection of a global shift towards a digitized financial future. As these and other countries delve deeper into the world of digital currencies, the financial landscape is poised for significant transformation.

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ECB Advances Digital Euro Project into Preparation Phase

The European Central Bank (ECB) has recently taken significant steps towards the conceptualization and eventual issuance of a digital euro, a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). This development comes as a response to the increasing digitalization of the economy and financial transactions. Authored by Juan Ayuso, Director General Operations, Markets and Payment Systems, the narrative elucidates the trajectory of the digital euro project, its significance, and the benefits it proposes to offer.

On October 18, 2023, the ECB announced the transition of the digital euro project into a “preparation phase,” following the conclusion of an initial “investigation phase” that commenced in October 2021. During this new phase, set to span two years, the ECB aims to finalize regulations, select private-sector partners, and conduct requisite testing for the digital euro​​.

The digital euro, designed to function as a digital form of cash, is envisaged to facilitate all digital payments across the euro area. Unlike private bank deposits, the digital euro would be a form of public money issued and backed by the central bank, ensuring a higher level of trust and security. It’s intended to be easily accessible, free for basic usage, and available for both online and offline transactions. A notable feature is its promise of high privacy levels for users, akin to cash transactions​​.

The digital euro project is a reflection of the broader global trend of central banks exploring and adopting digital currencies. The transition to a digital currency is perceived as a milestone, heralding the potential transformation of the monetary system to align with digital economic frameworks. The digital euro is expected to bolster the European financial system, making it more resilient and less dependent on foreign digital payment platforms. Moreover, the digital euro’s offline mode is anticipated to provide a robust solution during internet outages, extending digital payment capabilities to remote areas currently underserved by digital infrastructure.

The implementation of the digital euro is contingent upon the completion of relevant EU legislation. In June 2023, the European Commission introduced two legislative proposals aimed at establishing the legal framework for the digital euro. The ECB has stated that a final decision regarding the issuance of the digital euro will only be made post the completion of this legislative process​​.

In the coming weeks, euro area central banks are set to unveil plans for a wholesale CBDC, aiming to innovate financial institutions’ securities settlement procedures. This suggests a concerted effort within the EU to modernize financial systems in alignment with emerging digital technologies​​.

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Federal Reserve’s Bowman Discusses Digital Currency Innovations Amid CBDC Debate

On October 17, 2023, Governor Michelle W. Bowman of the Federal Reserve Board addressed a roundtable at Harvard Law School, delving into the contemporary discourse surrounding innovations in money and payments. The talk comes at a pivotal juncture as digital assets like crypto-assets, stablecoins, and Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) continue to pique the interest of financial institutions and regulators alike.

Governor Bowman underscored the burgeoning interest in digital assets, highlighting the ongoing developments in CBDC, stablecoins, and other digital assets, which are perceived as potential game-changers in the financial arena. She acknowledged the technological advancements embedded in programmable payment platforms and distributed ledger technology (DLT), indicating that they present an opportunity to enhance the existing payment infrastructure.

Bowman pivoted to the topic of CBDC, articulating her stance on the debate surrounding the introduction of retail CBDC in the United States. She emphasized the necessity to delineate the problems a CBDC is intended to solve and to consider any alternative solutions. Notably, Bowman contended that existing payment system improvements like the FedNow Service might offer more efficient solutions to the identified problems than a hastily introduced CBDC. She expressed concerns about potential risks and trade-offs a U.S. CBDC might entail for the financial system, especially regarding consumer privacy and the robustness of the banking system.

Delving into stablecoins, Governor Bowman pointed out their origins to support crypto-asset trading but noted their evolving use as an alternative to traditional payments. She outlined the regulatory gaps, emphasizing that stablecoins lack the stringent regulation and safeguards characteristic of traditional financial systems. This regulatory void, according to Bowman, could possibly expose consumers and the broader financial system to unforeseen risks.

Governor Bowman called for a clear and sensible regulatory framework to accommodate private sector innovations within established guardrails. She highlighted the disparity in regulatory scrutiny between stablecoin issuers and traditional banks, advocating for a level playing field to ensure consumer protection and to uphold the integrity of the financial system.

The discussion transitioned to wholesale payments, where Bowman explored potential technological advancements that could be leveraged to improve wholesale payment infrastructures. She highlighted various models, including the concept of a shared ledger to facilitate digital asset transactions and DLT as a bridge to achieve interoperability between distinct ledgers.

Bowman emphasized the importance of continuous research to understand and navigate the evolving digital landscape. She endorsed a collaborative approach with international counterparts to share insights and understand the implications of digital payments innovations on a global scale.

Governor Michelle Bowman advocated for a responsible approach towards financial innovation, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive regulatory framework to ensure the stability and efficiency of the U.S. financial system amidst the digital evolution.

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NBG Georgia Shortlists Ripple Among Tech Firms for CBDC Pilot

The National Bank of Georgia (NBG) is propelling forward with its Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) venture, dubbed the Digital GEL Pilot Project. The bank is now in the phase of scouting for a singular technology ally to facilitate the Limited Access Live Pilot Environment. This environment aims to scrutinize the technological prowess and possible applicative spheres of the CBDC system through an array of use cases.

Post an extensive research tenure and meticulous deliberation, NBG has culled a list of nine enterprises deemed fit for this exploratory journey. These firms have showcased ample technological potential, maturity, capacity, pertinent experience, and enthusiasm for on-field examination. The notable list comprises Augentic GmbH, Bitt Inc., Broxus Holdings Ltd., Currency Network Ltd., DCM Corp Limited, eCurrency Mint Inc., FARI Solutions Ltd., Ripple Labs, Inc., and Sovereign Wallet Co., Ltd. At the current juncture, NBG maintains a technology-neutral stance, weighing the varied technological solutions these shortlisted companies can contribute to the Digital GEL project.

A Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) is essentially a digital form of a country’s existing currency, which is issued by the country’s central bank. Unlike decentralized cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, a CBDC is centralized and enjoys the same legal status as physical banknotes and coins. It’s an endeavor to modernize the financial infrastructure and respond to the digital economy’s exigencies.

Among the shortlisted entities, Ripple Labs, Inc. holds a unique position with its Ripple CBDC solution. This solution aims to provide a neutral bridge between different currencies, allowing for frictionless value transfer, which can be particularly beneficial in the realm of cross-border transactions. The Ripple CBDC platform could potentially offer a robust foundation for the Digital GEL project, aligning with the objectives of fostering a seamless and inclusive financial ecosystem.

Upon concluding the selection phase, NBG aspires to earmark a single technology partner to transition into the pilot phase. This phase will test the CBDC platform in a restricted-duration live setting, evaluating the pragmatic use cases therein. The anticipation surrounding this pivotal pilot project is palpable, signifying a significant stride towards modernizing Georgia’s monetary landscape and embracing the digital currency epoch.

Disclaimer & Copyright Notice: The content of this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as financial advice. Always consult with a professional before making any financial decisions. This material is the exclusive property of Blockchain.News. Unauthorized use, duplication, or distribution without express permission is prohibited. Proper credit and direction to the original content are required for any permitted use.

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Blockchain Technology Powers Brazil’s National Identity Card Issuance

Brazil initiates the use of blockchain technology in issuing the National Identity Card (CIN), enhancing the security of the new identity issuance process. The shared registration platform, developed by Serpro, facilitates secure data sharing between the Federal Revenue of Brazil (RFB) and Civil Identification Bodies (OICs). The adoption begins in Goiás, Paraná, and Rio de Janeiro, with a nationwide implementation deadline set for November 6, 2023, as per Decree No. 10,977 of February 23, 2022.

Blockchain’s Edge in Security

Blockchain technology plays a pivotal role in personal data protection and fraud prevention, offering Brazilian citizens a more secure digital experience. The blockchain platform, dubbed b-Registers, is crucial for the security and reliability of the National Identity Card project, according to Serpro’s president, Alexandre Amorim. Blockchain applications benefit from data immutability, making it nearly impossible to alter or counterfeit recorded data. Additionally, decentralization reduces vulnerability to cyberattacks, while the technology’s transparency feature allows the tracing of all transactions and activities, enhancing user trust.

Implementation Timelines

The transition to blockchain for CIN issuance starts in Goiás, Paraná, and Rio de Janeiro this week. Over the next six weeks, other states will follow suit. The decree mandates all issuing bodies to adopt the new CIN standards by November 6, 2023. Rogério Mascarenhas, the Secretary of Digital Government at the Ministry of Management and Public Services Innovation (MGI), emphasizes the importance of adhering to the set timeline, outlining the CIN project’s significant impact on public safety and organized crime combat.

Citizen-Centric Benefits

Issued since July last year, the CIN incorporates new security elements like a secure QR Code and an automated reading zone, facilitating easy and secure checks by public safety forces. Besides the physical version, a digital version is available on the app. A notable change is the adoption of the CPF as the national registration number, ensuring consistent citizen identification across all states.

The initiative aligns Brazil with global trends, as illustrated by a similar program in Buenos Aires, Argentina, granting residents digital wallet access to identity documents. Over the years, Brazil has been striving to unify identity issuance across its nearly 30 states, with blockchain technology significantly advancing this objective.

The announcement comes as Brazil explores a central bank digital currency (CBDC), named Drex, announced in August, marking a step towards modernized, secure, and efficient public service delivery.

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CBDCs on the Rise: What the Decline of Physical Cash Means for Blockchain and Privacy

Key Takeaways

* By 2028, only 9% of all payments are expected to be made in physical currency.

* Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) are under development, but their design raises questions about privacy and personal freedom.

* Critics argue that digital payment systems, unlike cash, can be monitored and can refuse service without consequence.

The Inevitable Decline of Cash

According to a report by the World Economic Forum dated September 26, 2023, the use of physical cash has been declining at a rate of approximately 15% each year since 2017. The report estimates that by 2028, a mere 9% of all payments will be made using physical currency. This decline is not expected to happen overnight but is seen as an inevitable outcome due to the individual choices of millions of citizens and merchants.

Convenience Versus Privacy

The shift towards digital payments is largely driven by convenience. However, this convenience comes at the cost of personal freedom and privacy. Unlike digital payments, cash transactions do not require authorization from any third party, and they leave no trace. David Smith, Economics Editor at The Times, questioned the need for a digital cash replacement, stating, “Why would anybody bother? If I am happily, or in some cases not so happily, using contactless payments now, why would I go to the trouble of loading up a digital pound wallet to use that instead?”

The Role of Central Banks and CBDCs

Central banks are considering the introduction of retail Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) as a digital cash replacement. However, the design of these CBDCs is a subject of debate. Critics argue that if CBDCs do not offer the same level of privacy and freedom as cash, they could face resistance, especially in developed economies. The report suggests that only central banks, due to their monopoly on the issuance of cash, could deliver a digital cash substitute that balances both convenience and personal freedom.

Balancing Act: Freedom and Regulation

While the idea of a digital cash substitute is appealing, it also raises concerns about potential misuse. Any system that allows untraceable or unblockable payments could attract criminal activity. Therefore, the challenge lies in designing a CBDC that mimics the features of cash without becoming a digital “wild west.”

Disclaimer & Copyright Notice: The content of this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as financial advice. Always consult with a professional before making any financial decisions. This material is the exclusive property of Blockchain.News. Unauthorized use, duplication, or distribution without express permission is prohibited. Proper credit and direction to the original content are required for any permitted use.

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Swift’s CBDC Connector Enters Beta Testing with Global Central Banks

Swift, the world’s leading provider of secure financial messaging services, has announced the beta testing of its innovative Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) interoperability solution. This move comes as part of Swift’s ongoing efforts to bridge the gap between digital and fiat-based currencies.

Global Participation in Swift’s CBDC Initiative

Three central banks, including the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) and the National Bank of Kazakhstan, are currently integrating Swift’s CBDC connector solution into their infrastructure for direct testing. This follows Swift’s commitment to develop a beta version after the first sandbox testing phase, where participants acknowledged the solution’s “clear potential and value.”

Furthermore, over 30 financial institutions worldwide are participating in the second phase of sandbox experiments. This phase aims to explore additional use cases such as trigger-based payments for digital trade platforms, foreign exchange models, and liquidity saving mechanisms. Notably, the Reserve Bank of Australia, Deutsche Bundesbank, HKMA, Bank of Thailand, and CLS are among the institutions involved.

Addressing the Fragmentation Concern

According to The Atlantic Council, 130 countries, accounting for 98% of global GDP, are currently exploring CBDCs. Nineteen G20 countries are in advanced stages of CBDC development, with nine already piloting their digital currencies. However, the primary focus on domestic usage could lead to a fragmented landscape across borders.

Swift’s response to this potential fragmentation is a concentrated effort on interoperability for digital currencies and tokenized assets. Their goal is to ensure these digital assets can seamlessly integrate into the financial ecosystem when deployed. Swift’s CBDC initiative, which started over 18 months ago, saw almost 5,000 transactions simulated between two different blockchain networks and existing fiat-based payment systems during its first phase.

Swift’s Vision for the Future of Digital Currencies

Tom Zschach, Chief Innovation Officer at Swift, emphasized the company’s focus on interoperability. He stated, “Our focus is on interoperability – ensuring that new digital currencies can seamlessly coexist with each other and with today’s fiat-based currencies and payment systems.” Zschach also highlighted the financial community’s recognition of Swift’s CBDC innovations, which aim to prevent “digital islands” while securely bridging current and future payment systems.

Swift is proactively embracing blockchain and CBDC, recognizing that blockchain has the potential to revolutionize its current system. As reported by Blockchain.News, Swift, in collaboration with major banks and Chainlink, announced successful experiments on August 31, 2023, to transfer tokenized assets across multiple blockchains. The initiative aims to address interoperability challenges hindering tokenized asset market growth. Swift’s infrastructure can act as a central point for financial institutions transferring tokenized assets, ensuring global interoperability. Tom Zschach of Swift emphasized the importance of interoperability and Swift’s role in facilitating global value transfer.

About Swift

Swift is a global member-owned cooperative, providing a platform for secure financial messaging. Connecting over 11,500 banking and securities organizations in more than 200 countries, Swift facilitates global and local financial flows, supporting trade and commerce worldwide. While it doesn’t hold funds or manage accounts for customers, Swift ensures secure and standardized financial message exchanges. Headquartered in Belgium, Swift maintains a strong presence in major financial centers globally, emphasizing its neutral, global cooperative structure.

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Hong Kong and Israel Central Banks Collaborate on Retail CBDC Prototype

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) has joined forces with the Bank of Israel (BOI) and the Bank for International Settlements Innovation Hub (BISIH) Hong Kong Centre to release a joint report on “Project Sela – An accessible and secure retail CBDC ecosystem”. The report was unveiled at a conference in Tel Aviv on 12 September.

Project Sela marks the inaugural collaboration between the two central banks in the fintech domain. The initiative underscores the technical viability of a retail central bank digital currency (CBDC) framework that can foster competition and innovation in digital payments. This is achieved by permitting non-bank payment intermediaries to link directly to the CBDC ledger maintained by the central bank. The prototype, built on distributed ledger technology (DLT), serves as a testament to how the technical execution of the proposed structure can meet stringent cybersecurity, legal, and policy mandates.

Howard Lee, Deputy Chief Executive of the HKMA, commented on the project’s significance, stating, “Project Sela has offered invaluable hands-on insights into the cybersecurity, technical, and policy dimensions of retail CBDC deployment.” He further added that while the HKMA hasn’t finalized its stance on launching an e-HKD in Hong Kong, the findings from Project Sela will guide their continued research.

Andrew Abir, Deputy Governor of the BOI, emphasized the project’s role in fostering competition and innovation. He noted, “If central bank funds are to transition to a digital format, cybersecurity remains paramount. Project Sela has facilitated a comprehensive discussion on the cybersecurity facets of CBDC with our collaborators.”

Bénédicte Nolens, Head of the BIS Innovation Hub Hong Kong Centre, shed light on the project’s exploration into a CBDC system where the central bank manages the retail ledger. She highlighted the introduction of an “Access Enabler” intermediary, which broadens CBDC access, thereby stimulating competition and innovation, without compromising on cybersecurity or user privacy.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) has been exploring Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) since 2017, leveraging Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT). In 2017, the HKMA initiated Project LionRock, focusing on large-value payments.

By 2019, in collaboration with the Bank of Thailand, they launched Project Inthanon-LionRock, which evolved into the Multiple CBDC Bridge (mBridge) by 2021, emphasizing real-time cross-border transactions.

In Q3 2022, mBridge underwent a pilot phase, settling over HK$171 million in transactions. On the retail front, the HKMA is considering an e-HKD, with a technical whitepaper released in 2021 and a position paper in 2022 outlining its three-rail approach to implementation.

The Rail 2 – e-HKD pilot programme was launched in November 2022, inviting stakeholders to explore e-HKD applications.

Disclaimer & Copyright Notice: The content of this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as financial advice. Always consult with a professional before making any financial decisions. This material is the exclusive property of Blockchain.News. Unauthorized use, duplication, or distribution without express permission is prohibited. Proper credit and direction to the original content are required for any permitted use.

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Mastercard’s CBDC Initiative: Ripple Joins as Key Partner in Digital Currency Evolution

Central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), sometimes known as digital versions of fiat money backed by governments, are acquiring a substantial amount of traction around the globe. 93% of central banks are now involved in operations connected to CBDCs, and four retail CBDCs are already in full circulation, according to statistics from the Bank for International Settlements.

Mastercard is taking the initiative to understand and implement CBDCs by adopting a proactive approach. Jesse McWaters, who is in charge of worldwide regulatory advocacy at Mastercard, brought attention to the fact that it is necessary to address a variety of difficulties, some of which include the role that the private sector plays in the issuing of CBDCs, as well as security, privacy, and interoperability.

Mastercard has launched its CBDC Partner Programme in order to encourage cooperation among industry professionals and propel innovation in this space. Ripple, Consensys, Fluency, and Idemia, as well as Consult Hyperion, Giesecke+Devrient, and Fireblocks, are among the illustrious companies that have joined forces with this programme as partners. These organisations are hard at work on a variety of CBDC-related fronts right now. For example, Ripple very recently worked with the Republic of Palau to develop a government-issued national stablecoin, and the company is also participating in four CBDC pilots at the moment.

The head of digital assets and blockchain at Mastercard, Raj Dhamodharan, recently gave a presentation in which he emphasised the significance of payment interoperability as well as the convenience of CBDCs. He made the following statement: “As we look ahead towards a digitally driven future, it will be essential that the value held as a CBDC is as easy to use as other forms of money.”

Sebastian Baierle, who works at G+D as the manager of strategic alliances for CBDC, brought attention to the many goals that governments have in mind regarding CBDCs. For example, the Bank of Ghana wants to bring more people into the formal financial market by using CBDCs, but the Swedish central bank is primarily concerned with ensuring that customers have access to money that is directly guaranteed by the central bank.

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South Korea Advances CBDC Pilot Project: Jeju, Busan, and Incheon Selected as Test Regions

South Korea is advancing its efforts to implement a central bank digital currency (CBDC) by narrowing down three potential regions for a pilot project. The Bank of Korea has identified Jeju, Busan, and Incheon as candidates for the private target CBDC test bed, excluding the country’s capital, Seoul, according to a report from a local South Korean media outlet on July 31, 2023.

The pilot project aims to explore the issuance and distribution of the CBDC, and the Bank of Korea plans to select one of the aforementioned regions for experimentation. The process will include testing payments and distribution at a public level and securing franchises that can accept payments via CBDC. An official at the bank stated, “The CBDC electronic wallet app will allow not only local residents but also many civilians, such as tourists to [partake].”

The regional closed tests of the CBDC will be similar to the current local currency scheme in place in various regions of South Korea. This local currency scheme was introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic as a basic income and relief payment solution. Jeju, Busan, and Incheon currently issue and distribute their local currencies, known as “Tamranjeon,” “Dongbaekjeon,” and “Incheon e-Eum,” respectively.

An official from a commercial bank in Korea reported that the choice was greatly inclined to Jeju, which has the second-largest population, as the number of eligible citizens in Busan is “so large that the Bank of Korea is burdened in many ways.”

The CBDC initiative in South Korea has been part of a broader exploration in recent years, with the country working on the project since at least 2020. Multiple banks in South Korea have also released information that they are conducting research on stablecoins as CBDC alternatives for efficiency purposes.

The local currency scheme has fewer technical barriers to overcome compared to CBDCs, according to the report. The pilot project’s success could pave the way for a more comprehensive implementation of CBDCs in South Korea, aligning with global trends in digital currency development.

Previously, South Korean electronics giant Samsung has joined forces with the Bank of Korea to cooperate on new CBDC research, including offline CBDC payment technology. This collaboration aims to enhance payment security and explore innovative solutions for digital currency utilization.

The South Korean CBDC pilot project represents a significant step in the country’s digital currency evolution and reflects the growing interest in CBDCs worldwide. 

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