In the exploration of digital currency and new national payments-system rails, user research is vital. It serves as a reality check, a cost-saver, and a compass; it mitigates risks and empowers decision-makers with the data they need to be proactive rather than reactive.
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Financial inclusion is widely touted as a driver behind countries’ exploration of central bank digital currency (CBDC). Yet this assumption is widely untested. It isn’t clear if or how CBDC might impact inclusion, nor how its design may help or harm users, especially the most vulnerable.
For CBDC decision makers, this interdisciplinary study surfaces concrete areas for focus and ideas for design directions gathered from collaborative research with the MIT Digital Currency Initiative as well as fieldwork with 13 teams of local researchers across four countries: Mexico, Nigeria, India, and Indonesia.
Designing a CBDC that replicates the features of existing systems will not make a meaningful difference for financial inclusion.
CBDC: Expanding Financial Inclusion or Deepening the Divide?