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The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has wrapped up its five-month-long pilot program centered on a central bank digital currency (CBDC), termed the eAUD, which would serve as a digital counterpart to the Australian Dollar.
The bank’s primary objective was to identify potential areas where the eAUD could positively impact the Australian economy.
The results aligned with many of the same perspectives in the cryptocurrency community, including clunky crypto key management.
The report notes, "For end users of tokenized assets, which include stablecoins and the pilot CBDC, key management remains a practical challenge."
While individual users often rely on blockchain wallets for security, businesses face complexities in key management, especially when it comes to revoking key access and multi-tiered approval processes for significant transactions.
Regulatory compliance emerged as another challenge.
“Considering the challenges encountered by some industry participants in meeting regulatory standards during this project, there might be a need to reassess Australia’s regulatory sandbox frameworks,” it read.
The report also touched upon privacy concerns, noting that CBDCs have faced scrutiny over potential use as surveillance tools by banks and payment service providers within the CBDC ecosystem.
The possibility of authorities censoring specific users and transactions was also mentioned, raising questions about user freedoms.
Unpacking Australia’s CBDC pilot
The pilot generated significant interest, garnering 110 use case submissions from various entities keen on participating.
These submissions included a diverse range of industry players, from emerging fintech ventures to established banking institutions such as ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, and Westpac.
From this extensive collection, the RBA, in collaboration with the DFCRC—a research group made up of various research and fintech stakeholders as well as the Australian Government—selected sixteen use cases.
The criteria for selection encompassed the potential socio-economic impact of the use case, its ability to leverage the pilot CBDC's capabilities, and the participant's capacity to adhere to regulatory standards within the project's timeline.
Technologically, the pilot CBDC was anchored on a private, permissioned platform, specifically an iteration of ConsenSys’ Quorum network.
Despite the aforementioned challenges, the report also touched on various advantages of a digital Aussie dollar, such as atomic settlement, programmable payments, and the potential to establish new markets for tokenized assets.
Still, the report concluded that the current environment isn’t ideal for dishing out a CBDC.
“Given the many issues that are yet to be resolved, any decision on a CBDC in Australia is likely to be some years away,” the report says.