By Robert A. Emmanuel
Antigua and Barbuda – alongside Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Lucia – is participating in the first phase of the digital currency pilot project of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB).
Speaking to regional media during a sensitisation session yesterday, ECCB Governor Timothy N.J. Antoine and representatives from the Financial Technologies (FinTech) working group gave an update on the pilot project.
The development of the digital currency, according to the ECCB, will be in two phases lasting a total of 18 months; the first phase will be the 12-month pilot project by volunteer banks in select countries and the second phase will be an additional testing and development stage.
“A transforming ECCU financial system necessitates a paradigm shift fostering increased use and reliance on financial technology to spur growth, competitiveness, financial inclusion, and resilience in protecting customer data,” according to the ECCB presentation.
The DXCD will operate on the IBM Hyper Ledger Fabric which, according to the ECCB team and its website, “has become the de-facto standard for enterprise blockchain platforms, offering a unique approach to consensus that enables performance at scale while preserving privacy to deliver an interoperable network-of-networks.”
The ECCB team added although the hope will be to reduce, by 2025, the number of persons in the sub-region using physical cash by 50 percent and cheques by 80 percent, persons will still have the opportunity to use physical cash as one of the many options.
“The key message here is choice. There will be six dominant channels available to our consumers. We do not want to alienate or exclude anyone from this process and that’s why, although we would like to see a reduction of physical cash, we are not proposing an elimination of cash,” said the ECCB Governor, adding that persons can make the choice between cost and convenience.
It was also stated that the digital currency, unlike debit and credit cards, will not carry a fee for the consumer.
In February 2019, the ECCB signed an agreement with Bitt Inc. to be a partner in the digital EC dollar (DXCD), outlined as a project in the ECCB’s strategic plan 2017-2021.