Central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) have been touched on by various speakers throughout the London Blockchain Conference 2023 (LBC 2023), so a panel focusing on one of the hottest topics in blockchain and finance was a fitting way to help round off the conference.
Just before lunch on Day 3 of the LBC, the hungry crowd at the business strategy stage was treated to some tasty nuggets of wisdom on the subject of CBDC from a panel of industry experts.
A pre-discussion show-of-hands demonstrated that most of the audience had at least heard of CBDCs. However, there were conflicting views in the crowd about its merits. But what exactly is this industry buzzword of the moment?
“It’s a new form of money which essentially has the liability of the central bank…it could be digital cash or tokenized cash,” explained Kumaraguru Ramanujam, Founder & CEO of Intrasettle.
He explained that despite this universal definition, “every jurisdiction has a different need for CBDC.” An example Ramanujam gave was India, where the country is demonetizing cash because of false currency coming in from Pakistan; a possible solution to this under discussion at the Indian central bank is a CBDC.
Whatever the use case, there was broad agreement amongst the three-person panel that CBDCs would have some kind of role in the future of money.
“I think blockchain is a big part of the next generation of financial infrastructure,” said James Belding, CEO of Tokenized. “A core motivation for CBDC is sovereignty and competitiveness of money. If central banks and economies are always competing with each other, this is another field they will be thinking about.”
In 2023, over 114 countries, representing over 95% of global GDP, are exploring the establishment of a CBDC, with 11 countries thus far having launched their own digital currencies.
Despite this seemingly high uptake, or at least consideration of the technology, there are many challenges to CBDCs being broadly implemented by central banks.
“So many policy issues touch CBDC, such as cyber security, privacy…this inevitably, at a policy level, makes it a very slow process of change,” said Chris Ostrowski, Founder & CEO of Soda Public Money. “You also want to design something that is non-disruptive in the transfer from cash money.”
These challenges are not insurmountable, and the benefits of CBDC might be worth the hassle.
“You can create more transparency and trust with a blockchain approach,” suggested Belding. This sentiment was echoed by Ostrowski, who said that “we don’t have as much privacy and control of our money use as we think we do today…I think CBDC is an opportunity for more democratic accountability.”
Trust and privacy were key themes of the discussion, and things Ramanujam suggested are needed for a successful CBDC; he also threw the terms “accessibility and offline” into the hat of good CBDC policy—as a digital currency cannot be truly accessible if it is not utilizable offline.
To round off the panel, the speakers offered one-sentence mantras for the audience and industry to think about and perhaps act on when it comes to CBDCs.
“We should concentrate on the before and after of the use cases,” said Ostrowski, as a way to improve the implementation and development of CBDCs going forward.
Belding went the optimistic route, saying, “despite all the political risks, I’m very excited.”
Ramanujam concluded that “we need to create more awareness about CBDCs.” At least in this respect, after the half-hour discussion came a close and the packed room emptied out for lunch, the LBC and the three speakers on the panel could claim to have contributed towards the goal.
Watch: Blockchain provides perfect foundation for CBDC
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