The modern-day monetary transaction has its roots in the barter system of ancient times. Over the course of thousands of years, physical money has become an integral part of our daily life – until the idea of replacing cash with digital currency was propagated.
The idea of replacing cash has been around for a long with cheques and bonds. However, the true idea of replacing cash has not been possible to implement up until recently with the advent of Mobile Financial Services and cryptocurrencies. Let's take a look at how they are impacting the economy of Bangladesh and what are the prospects and risks of a cashless society.
What is Digital Currency?
Digital currency is a form of currency that is available only in electronic form. That is, the transactions will take place virtually without any physical interaction. The idea of digital currency was popularized in 2009 after the initiation of Bitcoin by a certain unidentified individual named Satoshi Nakamoto. Harnessing the blockchain mechanism, Bitcoin slowly gained traction and today it is one of the leading cryptocurrencies in the world.
The individual Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies like Ethereum are stored in an e-wallet from which transactions can be made digitally. Currently, more and more organizations are opening up to crypto transactions as it is secure and an effective monetary system against cash-based transactions.
State of Digital Currency in Bangladesh
However, the popularity of cryptocurrency is also a headache for central regulatory authorities like Bangladesh Bank. Cryptocurrencies are decentralized monetary systems meaning they are not regulated by any central bank or government. The valuation of cryptocurrency is solely dependent on the stock market fluctuations. The lack of control over the system makes many central Banks skeptical about its usage as well as long-term implication in the economy. As a result, Bangladesh does not allow the mining or transaction of any form of cryptocurrency.
However, with the increasing popularity and adoption of cryptocurrency, we are only putting ourself at disadvantage for not making use of the potential posed by the system. Currently, the market capitalization of Bitcoin alone stands at over a trillion-dollar, several times more than the GDP of Bangladesh. It is to be noted that a large population of Bangladesh is still unbanked. And without the inclusion of people in the banking system, it's nearly impossible to move forward with the idea of a cashless society. So what is the answer of Bangladesh to this? How are we trying to keep with the increasing trend of digital transactions?
The answer is Mobile Financial Service. With over 47 million internet users and 165 million mobile subscribers, Bangladesh is rapidly moving into the age of the internet and digitalization. Leading banks tapped into this opportunity to introduce Mobile Financial Services like Bkash, Nagad, and Rocket.
The platforms aim to bring micro banking to the unbanked and make a transaction to various sectors a matter of a few taps on phone. Almost all the leading business including government channels now accepts payments through these MFS which is complementing the idea of a digital currency to some degree.