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Central Banks ‘Waking Up’ to Digital Currency, Create New Framework for CBDC Deployment

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The past six months have been a wake-up call for some central bank policy-makers. Central bank digital currency (CBDC) has risen to prominence as a potential solution to multiple challenges such as financial inclusion and payment‑system efficiency. But due in part to the market-moving nature of central bank announcements, the majority of research and experimentation is done independently, behind closed doors.

For the first time, the World Economic Forum gathered insights from central bank researchers, global policy‑makers, international organizations and experts from over 40 institutions to create the CBDC Policy‑Maker Toolkit. Blockchain and academic experts from around the world also contributed to the design and content to help policy‑makers within central banks confidently evaluate whether CBDC is the right fit for their economy and guide them through the evaluation, design and deployment process.

“Given the critical roles central banks play in the global economy, any central bank digital currency implementation, including potentially with blockchain technology, will have a profound impact domestically and internationally,” said Sheila Warren, Head of Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology at the World Economic Forum. “It is imperative that central banks proceed cautiously, with a rigorous analysis of the opportunities and challenges posed.”

Over the past year, the Forum’s Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology team captured lessons from current research and pilot projects, while acknowledging privacy and anonymization, to avoid potentially harmful market signalling. The framework is intended to help accelerate critical and rigorous analysis of CBDC and lay common groundwork for central banks to support stable, efficient and inclusive global systems that might include CBDC.

“We worked with almost a dozen central banks as well as prominent economists and financial industry leaders to create a common approach for evaluating and designing CBDC around the world,” said Ashley Lannquist, Project Lead, at the World Economic Forum. “The toolkit is the first of its kind to provide a concise summary of the key issues for policy-makers considering general-purpose or wholesale CBDC.”

The CBDC Policy‑Maker Toolkit provides high‑level guidance and information for retail, wholesale, cross‑border and private-sector issued “hybrid CBDC” as well as for large, small, emerging and developed countries. It guides users through the CBDC evaluation process, with descriptions for each stage of the process. Worksheets and information guides with research references accompany and correspond to each section. These documents serve as process checks and references to the decision‑making process. It also evaluates the role of distributed ledger technology within CBDC implementation and highlights important governance, user-data privacy, financial inclusion and security issues.

“The Bank of Thailand has made good progress on a wholesale CBDC project, called Project Inthanon,” said Dr. Veerathai Santiprabhob, Governor, Bank of Thailand. “From our experience, we need to identify tradeoffs between benefits from the use cases and their associated risks across different dimensions. This is where the Policymaker Toolkit could usefully provide an actionable framework for CBDC deployment.”

“We will pilot the new toolkit developed by the World Economic Forum, said Mr. al Maraj, Governor, Central Bank of Bahrain. “We hope that it will be an opportunity to learn, grow and to adapt to the changes in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

“The toolkit can serve as a springboard as central banks progress with their CBDC investigation and development,” Warren said. “The intricacies of implementing CBDC are complex and the implications are wide‑reaching. As a result, policy‑makers may find themselves in uncharted waters when attempting to evaluate the potential benefits and trade‑offs.”

The National Bank of Cambodia has developed the first full-scale deployment of a quasi-form of CBDC as part of Project Bakong, which started as a pilot test with a live and confined environment on 18 July 2019 and plans to go live early 2020. A specific problem was identified. It needed to connect a fragmented payments economy, dominated by heavy cash usage and PSPs, with commercial banks, merchants, and the country’s largely underbanked population to reduce payments frictions and increase financial inclusion. Developing a blockchain-based payment system was one solution to this challenge.

While cases like Cambodia, Uruguay, Eastern Caribbean Central Bank and the People’s Bank of China show that some countries are accelerating, many others are still researching and have not decided whether or how to issue. The toolkit provides a guide for these countries to make progress quickly and analyse if CBDC is right for them.

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Ensuring a More Inclusive Future for Indonesia through Digital Technologies

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While Indonesia has one of the fastest growing digital economies in South East Asia, action is needed to ensure that all Indonesians, especially the most vulnerable, can access various digital technologies and services and realize the benefits, according to a new World Bank report Beyond Unicorns: Harnessing Digital Technologies for Inclusion in Indonesia.

Although the accelerated adoption of internet-enabled services during the pandemic is likely to boost the growth of the digital economy, the benefits of such development could be unequal.

“There are a whole host of opportunities to use digital technologies for promoting better healthcare delivery, and improving access among the underserved but these need to be built on a base of reliable and interoperable data systems,” said Minister of Health of the Republic of Indonesia, Budi Gunadi Sadikin. “The pandemic has generated an unprecedented urgency to make this a reality and has also created a momentum to expedite adoption of digital technologies.

For Indonesia to leverage digital technologies for greater inclusion, the new report emphasizes three policy priorities. The first is to boost digital connectivity and universalize access to high quality internet through efforts such as improving clarity of regulations around the sharing of telecom infrastructure. The second priority is to ensure that the digital economy works for all. This can be supported by better logistics and greater investment in relevant skills for the digital era. The third priority is using digital technologies to provide better public services, improve the quality of citizen-and-state interactions, and build trust in the digital world.

Despite the progress in expanding internet over the past decade, the basic connectivity gap remains a major hurdle in Indonesia. Almost half of the adult population is still without access while the urban-rural connectivity divide has not narrowed. In 2019, 62 percent of Indonesian adults in urban areas were connected to the internet compared to 36 percent in rural areas, while it was 20 percent and 6 percent respectively in 2011. Indonesians in the top 10 percent of the income distribution were five times more likely to be connected than those in the bottom 10 percent.

“Addressing the digital divide goes beyond efforts to reduce the connectivity gap,” said Satu Kahkonen, World Bank Country Director for Indonesia and Timor-Leste.“It will be crucial to help citizens develop the skills to maximize digital opportunities, especially for better jobs. At the same time, it is equally important for the government to address the challenges related to regulations and business environment to enable firms to innovate and compete effectively.”

The proportion of Indonesian adults with access to the internet has increased from 13 percent in 2011 to 51 percent in 2019. Indonesians who are connected to the internet are among the most engaged populations in the world spending as many as six hours a day online. In addition, a large segment of this population is ready to intensify their digital interactions with the government. However, fragmentation of data and an untapped potential of building a comprehensive digital ID framework off the existing ID system are some of the key challenges holding back the government from a broader digital transformation.

Digitally engaged Indonesians are now experiencing how technologies reshape their lives and commercial activities contributing to better consumer experience. However, the opportunities are often limited to a particular demographic group with relatively higher level of skills. Digital gig work is more remunerative than other forms of informal work but is concentrated among urban male workers predominantly in the transportation, storage, and communications sector.

The report recommends the development of a national digital ID framework to enable Indonesians to prove their identity securely online, including a law on personal data protection that is backed by an independent oversight body. It calls for a reorientation from a narrow focus on e-government to a more comprehensive national digital transformation agenda.

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WEF Launches Coalition to Tackle Harmful Online Content

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The World Economic Forum announced today that it is launching a Global Coalition for Digital Safety which will accelerate public-private cooperation to tackle harmful content online. It will serve to exchange best practices for new online safety regulation, take coordinated action to reduce the risk of online harms, and drive collaboration on programmes to enhance digital media literacy. The full list of members can be found here.

With the growing challenge of health misinformation, violent extremist and terrorist content, and the exploitation and abuse of children online, there is an urgent need for more deliberate global coordination to improve digital safety.

“The Forum recognizes this problem is only growing in size and complexity. This Coalition serves to bring together leaders in the public and private sector to cooperate globally on solutions that will ultimately reduce the consumption and distribution of material that is causing harm – especially to vulnerable members of our population,” said Cathy Li, Head of Media, Entertainment, and Sport Industries at the Forum.

Coalition members highlighted the need to act more proactively when it comes to digital safety and the importance of further cooperation:

“All the processes of the modern world are connected to the internet and information technologies. But at the same time, when we speak about high-tech processes, ‘digitalization’, we always know about the main goal – to create a safe online environment for our citizens. Therefore, the global initiative to create purposeful cooperation between states, organizations and businesses is extremely relevant.”

H.E. Mykhailo Fedorov, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation, Ukraine

“In order to improve digital safety, it is imperative that we accelerate public-private cooperation. This is an area that the World Economic Forum’s Global Coalition for Digital Safety, as an impartial platform, can look into.”

H.E. Johnny G. Plate,Minister of Communications and Informatics, Indonesia

“The significance of national and international collaboration, multistakeholder engagement and investment in holistic solutions to address the proliferation of global online harms has never been more important. I am so pleased to be part of the World Economic Forum’s Digital Content Safety initiative and to have an opportunity to raise awareness about eSafety’s multifaceted approach to helping our citizens have safer, more positive experiences online. Securing harmonization across jurisdictions to avoid a patchwork and fragmentation of online safety legislation, governance arrangements and national online safety measures should be a priority for us all.”

Julie Inman Grant, eSafety Commissioner, Australia

“Global online safety is a collective goal that must be addressed by working across borders as well as by individual nations. We look forward to collaborating with international Coalition members to reduce the risk of online harms and build a safer life online for everyone.”

Dame Melanie Dawes, Chief Executive, Ofcom, UK

“We believe that everyone should be free to share without harassment or abuse.”

Chris Priebe, Executive Chairman, Two Hat Security

“Technology offers tools to learn, play, connect, and contribute to solving some of the world’s greatest challenges. But digital safety harms remain a threat to these possibilities. As the World Economic Forum is uniquely positioned to accelerate the public-private collaboration needed to advance digital safety globally, Microsoft is eager to participate and help build whole-of-society solutions to this whole-of-society problem.”

Courtney Gregoire, Chief Digital Safety Officer, Microsoft

A framework proposed in the new report, Advancing Digital Safety, will serve to better protect users online. It is centred on industry standards, which establish a safety baseline, together with regulation to govern enforcement. Coalition members are committed to charting a course that will resolve key tensions in privacy, safety, expression, business incentives and corporate versus public responsibility to effectively minimize the risk of harms encountered online.

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How digitalization helps Moscow and its citizens

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The unified digital register, an electronic system of interdepartmental interaction, provides departments with access to more than 390 types of documents – certificates, statements and other information needed to provide city services to residents.

The system allows citizens to avoid wasting time collecting a number of documents themselves. Government employees responsible for providing services can receive and process information more quickly.

“Creation and development of the base register allowed Moscow to transfer many state services into electronic form, including services related to construction and realty spheres, where several authorities and organizations are involved. In addition, the electronic interdepartmental interaction helps the staff of “My Documents” centers to provide services to citizens and solve their problems more quickly. Almost all the necessary information is acquired electronically from each other, so that residents do not have to collect certificates and statements themselves. According to the statistics of the Moscow City Information Technologies Department, over the past 10 years, this system has saved Moscow citizens from having to submit more than 400 million documents,” said Eduard Lysenko, Minister of the Moscow City Government, Head of the Information Technologies Department.

Today, the mos.ru website gives users access to a full range of services needed by citizens in certain life situations, such as the birth of a child or purchase of a car. The first service on the mos.ru portal was the “Relocation help under the Renovation Programme” service. At the moment, it offers interactive instructions, notification service for all stages of moving and a service to call movers who will help move things to a new flat.

In the future, the city will continue to develop the mos.ru portal services so that residents will be obligated to visit authorities in person and present original documents as rarely as possible.

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