The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) announced that it plans to launch a blockchain trial at the end of 2017 that aims to improve the central bank’s ability to monitor and facilitate interbank lending.
In April, the Cambodian central bank entered into a partnership with Japanese blockchain startup Soramitsu to co-develop the Hyperledger Iroha ledger to build a new payment infrastructure on top of distributed ledger technology. Hyperledger Iroha is an open-source blockchain software that allows users to store and transfer data as well as develop smart contracts, which makes it suitable for the development of digital payment systems.
However, the National Bank of Cambodia stated that it is not focusing on creating a new digital currency at this point. Instead, the new blockchain trial will aim to reduce the costs in Cambodia’s interbank lending market, according to a local news publication.
“We expect the new technology to provide smooth, efficient, safe and affordable interbank transactions which will ultimately benefit end users. At this stage we will focus on the operational functionality of the system, but we believe the system can further be customized with application development to benefit the [central] bank’s monetary policy, including the use of the local currency,” NBC Director-General Chea Serey told the Phnom Penh Post.
Having said that, Serey also mentioned that “a cashless system is less costly and more transparent for the whole economy. This has always been on our agenda, but we needed time to study the different platforms available,” suggesting that a digital Cambodian riel is not off the table in the future.
Serey further added that the National Bank of Cambodia’s motivation for developing blockchain solutions is to give the central bank greater control over the country’s monetary policy, which is constrained by the Kingdom’s heavy use of the U.S. dollar.
Central Banks Around the World Look to the Blockchain
The National Bank of Cambodia is not the only central bank looking at possible implementation of blockchain technology.
The People’s Bank of China, for example, announced in January that it has completed a blockchain trial for a new Chinese digital currency by digitizing the Chinese yuan and transacting with a range local banks. The Canadian central bank, the Bank of Canada, is also interested in what blockchain technology can offer, having run a similar trial to test blockchain-based digitized fiat currency for interbank payments.
The Bank of England is also exploring blockchain opportunities through its multi-year research program that explores the implication of central banks issuing digital currencies. For Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, the most interesting use case for blockchain technology is the securities settlement process. He called it “ripe for innovation.”
“A typical settlement chain involves many intermediaries, making it comparatively slow and keeping operational risks high. Industry has begun to work together to determine how distributed ledger technologies could be used to solve these issues at scale,” Carney added, speaking at a fintech conference in London in April.
Given the number of blockchain trials that central banks are conducting across the globe, it will not be surprising to see a wave of digitization of fiat currencies taking place in the years to come.