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India preps digital rupee pilot

India preps digital rupee pilot

The Reserve Bank of India is preparing to launch a limited pilot testing a digital rupee for specific use cases.

In a 51 page "concept note" on a CBDC, the RBI's fintech department says the pilot will begin soon as the central bank prepares for a "watershed moment in the evolution of currency that will decisively change the very nature of money and its functions".

The RBI is working towards a phased implementation strategy for a digital rupee, planning various pilots before a final launch "with minimal or no disruption to the financial system," says the paper.

The bank says it is considering both wholesale and retail CBDCs, arguing that the former can improve settlement systems while the latter can offer direct access to safe money for payment and settlement.

The motivations for introducing a CBDC include reducing costs associated with physical cash management, boosting financial inclusion, improving efficiency, and encouraging innovation in cross-border payments.

The paper also flags the potential importance of an offline feature in a digital rupee as a way of reaching people in remote locations and guarding against power and mobile network outages.

But, says the RBI: "CBDC is aimed to complement, rather than replace, current forms of money and is envisaged to provide an additional payment avenue to users, not to replace the existing payment systems."

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