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What are CBDCs?

The contemporary financial technology employed in traditional payment systems has not been able to keep up with the rapid pace of technological advancements in other areas. The act of transferring money, for instance, despite being a seemingly straightforward process of transmitting digital bits, often incurs high costs and longer processing times than optimal.

In response to this issue, various governments have initiated the development of a novel type of digital currency, known as Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), which is designed to enhance payment efficiency and minimize costs for all parties involved. CBDCs can be perceived as digital fiat currencies constructed upon a new technological infrastructure inspired by the innovations introduced by blockchain, and it is expected that a large number of countries will incorporate CBDCs into their monetary systems within the upcoming decade. As such, we stand at a critical juncture to first gain an understanding of the operational mechanisms of these digital currencies as we move forward into a globalized world that is increasingly warming up to them.

Introducing CBDCs to the World

CBDCs are often established by government institutions such as banks, to increase the efficiency of payment systems and lower costs for all parties involved. Although some CBDC implementations will be based on blockchain or distributed ledger technology, others will likely use a centralized database. Several central banks are already exploring or conducting a proof-of-concept for CBDCs, including the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) with its digital yuan project, DC/EP, and the European Central Bank (ECB), which proposed a digital euro in October 2020. The design of CBDCs may differ based on the issuing country, with some using blockchain or distributed ledger technology, while others may rely on a centralized database. For blockchain-based CBDCs, a token is used to represent the digital form of fiat currency.

Benefits of CBDCs

The adoption of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) offers a range of benefits that could address long-standing issues in traditional finance. One significant advantage of CBDCs is the potential to increase financial inclusion, particularly for the unbanked population. Compared to decentralized cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, CBDCs may be better suited to achieving this goal by offering low-cost bank accounts accessible to all legal citizens.

Moreover, the implementation of CBDCs could bring about much-needed technological advancements in the financial system. While fiat money largely exists as numbers in a database, outdated infrastructure often results in slow and costly transactions. CBDCs have the potential to increase the efficiency of payment systems, enabling faster and cheaper transactions.

Furthermore, CBDCs have the potential to enable more direct implementation of monetary policy changes by central banks and financial institutions, particularly in response to economic crises. This could revolutionize central banking practices, allowing for more immediate and effective responses to economic challenges.

Finally, the adoption of CBDCs could also facilitate easier tracking of illicit activities. The centralized control of CBDCs provides the government and central banks with the ability to monitor transactions and detect suspicious activities with greater ease.

A Comparison between CBDCs and Cryptocurrencies

Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) have been gaining attention in the world of digital currencies. While CBDCs and stablecoins may appear to be similar in their function, there are significant differences in their underlying mechanisms. Stablecoins are usually issued by private entities and represent fiat currency or some other asset. In contrast, CBDCs are issued by the government and function as legal tender.

On the other hand, CBDCs also differ from cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. CBDCs are similar to banknotes issued by a central bank, providing a unit of account, a means of payment, and a store of value. Cryptocurrencies, in contrast, are decentralized, trustless, and censorship-resistant. There is no centralized entity controlling the network, and nobody can blacklist Bitcoin addresses from sending transactions to others.

Additionally, unlike cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, CBDCs are issued by a state and declared legal tender by a government. Cryptocurrencies are borderless and are not issued by any state or centralized entity, whereas CBDCs can be used for cross-border payments.

The choice between CBDCs, stablecoins, and cryptocurrencies depends on the intended use case. While the decentralized nature of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin provides censorship-resistance and trustlessness, it may also result in downsides such as irreversibility of transactions and the lack of a centralized entity to address issues that arise. For some use cases, having the power to revert transactions or blacklist addresses can be useful. For others, the benefits offered by a decentralized network such as Bitcoin may be more advantageous.


In essence, central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) can be defined as digitized versions of fiat currencies that are issued and backed by a central bank. With the aim of improving the efficiency, security, and accessibility of payment systems, CBDCs are designed to facilitate the exchange of value through the use of digital tokens that represent the underlying fiat currency.

Given the potential benefits of blockchain technology, it is likely that many CBDC implementations will employ this distributed ledger technology to enhance the security, transparency, and immutability of transactions. By doing so, CBDCs can offer a more seamless and cost-effective means of making digital payments, without the need for intermediaries such as banks or payment processors.

In addition to facilitating transactions, CBDCs have the potential to improve financial inclusion by providing access to financial services to individuals who may have been excluded from traditional banking systems. This is because CBDCs can be stored and transacted using a mobile phone or other digital device, which can be particularly useful for people living in underbanked or remote areas.

Overall, CBDCs represent a new frontier in the evolution of money and payment systems, with the potential to bring significant benefits to both individuals and the wider economy. However, as with any new technology, there are also risks and challenges associated with the development and adoption of CBDCs, including issues related to privacy, security, and financial stability.

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