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Failing to address relevant design choices that matter for users could result in a central bank digital currency (CBDC) that doubles down on the digital divide and undermines the long-term prospects for digital public money.
This report uniquely focuses on users, especially society’s most vulnerable, and is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the MIT Digital Currency Initiative and Maiden Labs, funded by the Gates Foundation. Findings are drawn from:
design research to identify the important open technical design choices and ways forward for CBDC;
infrastructure research on existing money technologies to understand the broader public-private dynamics in which CBDC financial inclusion issues are centered; and
fieldwork to understand the financial experiences of people in four low- and middle-income countries (India, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Mexico) and the ways existing money technologies are failing them or helping them flourish.
For policymakers, technologists, financial-inclusion advocates, and social scientists interested in CBDCs’ risks and opportunities, this report's insights include concrete areas for focus, ideas for design directions, and recommendations for future research. It is a resource for anyone wishing to understand how we can design a digital currency that expands financial inclusion and operates in the public interest, rather than one that exacerbates or even creates a new digital divide for currency.
Dr. Neha Narula
Director and Principal Investigator
MIT Digital Currency Initiative
Dr. Lana Swartz
University of Virginia
Dr. Julie Frizzo-Barker
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