If the e-krona is indeed launched, it would make the Riksbank the first major central bank in the world to have a digital currency.
“The less those of us living in Sweden use bank notes and coins, the clearer it becomes that the Riksbank needs to investigate whether we should issue electronic money as a complement to the money we have today,” Riksbank deputy governor Cecilia Skingsley said in a news release on Wednesday.
Cash is dying a slow death in Sweden, with alternative methods of payment commonplace. The number of notes and coins in circulation has reduced by 40 percent since 2009, while popular smartphone apps like Swish allow electronic payments to be made almost as quickly as handing over physical money. Swedes are also among the world’s biggest card users.
Before a decision will be made on issuing an e-krona the Riksbank will investigate possible technical, legal and practical issues. While other central banks in countries like the UK and Canada have already started to research the possible advantages and disadvantages of digital currencies, they have yet to move towards issuing one, so Sweden could be the first.
“The declining use of cash in Sweden means that this is more of a burning issue for us than for most other central banks. Although it may appear simple at first glance to issue e-krona, this is something entirely new for a central bank and there is no precedent to follow,” Skingsley noted.
The Riksbank said that if the e-krona is issued it will be as a complement to rather than a replacement for cash, adding that it will continue to issue banknotes and coins as long as there is a demand for them in Swedish society.