Skip to Content
Blockchain

Sweden is now testing its digital version of cash, the e-krona

February 20, 2020
Swedish paper currency
Swedish paper currency
Swedish paper currencyTony Webster | Flickr

The Riksbank, Sweden’s central bank, has announced the launch of a year-long pilot project of its proposed e-krona. The project will use distributed ledger technology inspired by the blockchains that run cryptocurrencies.

Cashless in Sweden: Physical cash is headed toward obsolescence in Sweden. Nearly everyone uses a mobile payment application called Swish, and it’s been estimated that retailers could stop accepting cash by 2023. This concerns the country’s central bankers, for two reasons. First, they fear that if the payment infrastructure is left completely to the private sector, certain groups might be excluded. Second, if people lose the ability to convert what’s in their commercial bank accounts into a form of “cash” backed by the government, it might undermine their faith in the money system. 

That’s why, a few years ago, the Riksbank began investigating the possibility of a state-backed digital currency that might play a similar role to the one physical cash plays today.

A public good? For a recent article on the future of cash, I spoke with Riksbank economist Gabriel Söderberg, who argued that whereas private companies are motivated by profit, the central bank would be focused on offering a public good. It has an incentive to focus on making a digital payment system that is user friendly and accessible to everyone.

A landmark decision: According to a press release, the pilot project will run until the end of February 2021. But there could be more tests: “There is currently no decision on issuing an e-krona, how an e-krona might be designed or what technology might be used.” Söderberg told me that the decision over whether to issue a sovereign digital currency will need to involve the Swedish public. “This decision is too big for a central bank alone, at least in the Swedish context,” he said. 

Keep up with the fast-moving and sometimes baffling world of cryptocurrencies and blockchains with our weekly newsletter Chain Letter. Subscribe here. It’s free!

Keep Reading

Most Popular

transplant surgery
transplant surgery

The gene-edited pig heart given to a dying patient was infected with a pig virus

The first transplant of a genetically-modified pig heart into a human may have ended prematurely because of a well-known—and avoidable—risk.

open sourcing language models concept
open sourcing language models concept

Meta has built a massive new language AI—and it’s giving it away for free

Facebook’s parent company is inviting researchers to pore over and pick apart the flaws in its version of GPT-3

Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research
Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research

Saudi Arabia plans to spend $1 billion a year discovering treatments to slow aging

The oil kingdom fears that its population is aging at an accelerated rate and hopes to test drugs to reverse the problem. First up might be the diabetes drug metformin.

images created by Google Imagen
images created by Google Imagen

The dark secret behind those cute AI-generated animal images

Google Brain has revealed its own image-making AI, called Imagen. But don't expect to see anything that isn't wholesome.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.