VOX DEI: The Criticality of Consumers’ Voices in the Development of CBDC

Posted on Oct 27, 2023 by Kwame Agyapong Oppong, Head, FinTech and Innovation, and Docia Agyemang Boakye, Innovation Officer, Bank of Ghana

“When we shift from I-centric to WE-centric thinking, we enhance our partnership in co-creating the future.” — Judith E. Glaser

“…good design must primarily serve people.” — Thomas J. Watson

“User-centered design means working with your users all throughout the project.” — Donald A. Norman

The principles that underpin the concept of customer centricity have long guided many commercial enterprises into commercial success. In this modern, data-driven market environment, the idea of putting customers at the center of everything we do is intuitive and should be self-evident. While it may seem that this concept only applies in the uber-competitive commercial business space, central bank digital currency (CBDC) is expected to thrust central banks and monetary authorities into a full application of this concept in order to ensure a successful adoption of this new form of currency. For all the noble, rational, or perhaps lofty policy goals that we seek to achieve with CBDC, the customer will be the ultimate arbiter. It thus stands to reason that central banks must make the potentially uncomfortable mental, orientational, or operational shifts necessary to put this reality at the center of the whole effort.

CBDCs are digital representations of cash, considered as legal tender, a store of value, the liability of a central bank, and recognized as a new development of central bank money in conjunction with cash (Bank for International Settlements, 2020; Bank of Ghana, 2022; Bank of Jamaica, 2020). They have been deployed and launched by countries such as Nigeria — eNaira (Central Bank of Nigeria, 2023; eNaira, 2023), The Bahamas — Sand Dollar (Sand Dollar, 2023), and Jamaica — JAM-DEX (Bank of Jamaica, 2022). Other countries, such as Ghana, have completed a pilot phase while others such as the United Kingdom, Turkey, Singapore, and Namibia are at different stages of research and proof of concept (CBDC Tracker, 2023).

The uptake and acceptance of a country's CBDC by its populace will largely depend on the considerations and actions taken towards its development and deployment.

There can be some potential challenges with the adoption of a CBDC that stem from physiological, social, economic, and demographic factors. These can be further discussed in several dimensions including education, trust, gender, perceived value, and risk.

Two inimical factors to the advancement of a CBDC are a negative outlook from a country’s citizens and slow consumer uptake once a CBDC implementation is effectuated.

The emerging consensus that consumer acceptance is a critical success factor in a CBDC deployment compels countries at all stages of CBDC development to align their designs closely with consumer needs and expectations. These insights can only be established from an effective consumer understanding study that elucidates the aims, pains, and gains of consumers’ currency usage and digital payment experiences. Equally important, emphasis needs to be laid on the fact that while CBDC is currency, it is experientially indistinguishable from other digital payment user experiences (UX). Therefore, issues such as customer journey, customer experience, and user interfaces need to be taken into account to ensure an optimal product-user fit. Such a consumer-centered approach can effectively guide central banks away from embarking on an organizational-centric deployment approach, to which they may be susceptible.

A global scan of CBDC explorations reveals the myriad implementation strategies adopted by each country, often in response to its local context. Amidst the ensuing debates about different elements of CBDC design, the jury is in on the need to pursue a human-centered approach that inures to the benefit of consumers and society as a whole. However, deconstructing the underlying attributes that influence consumer adoption of CBDC will reveal several internal and external factors.

Some of these factors include ...

Read more in the CBPN Members' Library with your annual subscription.

No part of Central Bank Payments News may be reproduced, copied, republished, or distributed in any form or by any means, in whole or in part, without the express and prior written permission of the publisher, Currency Research Malta, Ltd.