Sweden’s central bank is working with commercial lender Handelsbanken in the next testing phase of its central bank digital currency (CBDC).
The tests will focus on how the country’s proposed digital currency, the e-krona, would handle payments in the real world. “The e-krona pilot is therefore moving on from only having simulated participants to cooperation with external participants in the test environment,” Sweden’s Riksbank explained.
The Riksbank said it would proceed to this next phase of testing with commercial banks in April. Their stated intention at the time was to evaluate how the e-krona could be used for both large commercial and small retail payments.
For their part, Handelsbanken expressed great enthusiasm about its involvement in what they see as a historical endeavor. From their perspective, “the project means the opportunity to participate in what may be among the first digital central bank-issued money in the world to be available to the public”.
Sweden is one of the few countries who have made such lengthy strides in its CBDC project. While many countries are still developing their CBDCs, only the Bahamas has launched one so far. With this next step, Sweden joins only China among nations who have started active testing with the CBDC.
Sweden’s earlier steps
Sweden first announced its e-krona ambitions in March 2017. Already one of the world’s most cashless societies, the country was among the first to contemplate issuing a digital currency.
The country started running a pilot program for the e-krona with Accenture in February 2020. The pilot program explored how the public would take to a CBDC, and concluded in February 2021. While that pilot program was underway, Sweden’s government launched a review into the feasibility of the e-krona in December 2020. This review is due to conclude by November 2022.
Despite all the progress, Swedish lawmakers have yet to make a final decision on whether it will launch the e-krona. In October last year, Riksbank governor Stefan Ingves said the ultimate decision must be a political one.