ECCB to Run 18-Month Pilot with Digital EC Dollar

BITT CEO Rawdon Adams and ECCB Governor Timothy N.J. Antoine (ECCB Connects Photo)

The new BITT/ECCB collaboration is NOT a crypto currency and is simply a digital dollar explained officials during a recent press conference to launch the pilot.

Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) Timothy N.J. Antoine told the media on Tuesday that “the transformation of the ECCU necessitates that we make a shift and a leap. We must move from our comfort zone to a challenge zone. But we must not stop there. From there, we must move into a creative zone. In this zone, we are obliged to challenge old assumptions, examine our cultural hang-ups and stretch our minds to embrace new possibilities.

“I have said it before and I reiterate it today, such transformation is not possible without digital disruption. I therefore urge us to avoid a “failure of imagination” as we craft the way forward. We must never forget that all the technologies that we now take for granted today including our smartphones were once mere ideas… For our region to improve our development prospects and performance, we must expedite our digital transition. To this end, regulators and innovators must work together. This pilot exemplifies this collaboration,” Governor Antoine stated.

The 18-month pilot will involve a 12-month development and testing phase and six months roll out, with intensive sensitisation and education across the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). The plan is to test the digital dollar in three countries of the ECCU from both the Windwards and Leewards. The governor said they had already received expressions of interests from four countries. No financial institutions on Montserrat submitted an application to be part of the programme, according to Angela Estwick, the ECCB Representative on island.

BITT CEO Rawdon Adams, who was also present, said the high cost of using cash and coins, correspondent banking issues, the high rate of unbanked in the region who do not fit a bank’s client profile are reasons why a digital dollar makes sense for the Eastern Caribbean. Adams said there was risk involved in using a digital dollar but these were far outweighed by the rewards. He gave examples of how the digital wallet is being used to significantly reduce costs of supermarkets in Barbados, where BITT is based.

The vision is that businesses within a wide array of sectors such as supermarkets, telecommunications, gas stations, hospitality sector and even individuals would be willing to use the digital currency to manage their daily transactions. The digital currency will run alongside cash and the governor says there are no plans to eliminate cash. For the test period, these transactions will only be done within the ECCU. The ECCB wants to understand how people use the currency, whether they are willing to use it exclusively or in tandem with cash and do recipients turn the digital currency into cash for further use. Smartphones would be required for the users to conduct transactions.

Both Adams and Antoine say their organisations share a vision for solving the issues of the region.

“Here in the ECCU, we can no longer be patient when our economies and people demand transformation. The time to act is now. I issue a clarion call for partnership. I invite non-bank financial institutions who provide wallet services to join this effort. I invite telecommunication service providers and other technology companies to join this effort as we develop a digital ecosystem from which our region can reap huge digital dividends. Most importantly, I invite the citizens and residents of the ECCU to share your views on how this pilot could best serve you.

“With laser-like focus, let us now move forward with the EC digital currency pilot project, determined to make a significant difference in the lives of the people of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union,” ended the Governor.

Read the Governor’s full statement here –> https://www.eccb-centralbank.org/news/view/governor-antoine-addresses-the-eccu-media-on-launch-of-fintech-pilot-project

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