Sweden could become the first major country to issue a national digital currency

By  | 

Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates scoring the opening goal against Moldova during their Euro 2016 group G qualifying soccer match.

Cecilia Skingsley, deputy governor of Sweden’s central bank Riksbank, told the Financial Times in an interview that the bank is considering the move after a dramatic drop in the usage of cash. The amount of notes and coins in circulation has fallen by 40% since 2009, with a rise in online shopping and card payments.

It has spurred the Riksbank to think about new ways of issuing money across Sweden. Skingsley told the FT: “This is as revolutionary as the paper note 300 years ago. What does it mean for monetary policy and financial stability? How do we design this: a rechargeable card, an app or another way?”

While banks are currently given access to electronic money by the central bank, if Sweden does choose to introduce the “ekrona” it would be the first time a major country in the world has given consumers direct access to virtual money issued by a central bank. (Riksbank was the first central bank in the world to issue paper notes, way back in the 1660s.)

Skingsley says the central bank is in the early stages of exploring the idea and is launching a project to explore various possibilities. Issues such as traceability, delivery method, and interest on e-money will all be examined. She also stressed that any “ekrona” would sit alongside coins and notes, rather than replacing them.

However, Skingsley says blockchain is just one of several technologies that Riksbank will look at in relation to the “ekrona.”