Rainer Olt is leading research on digital currency technology for Estonia’s central bank. In an interview with Ian Hall, he talks blockchain, privacy and instant payments
Estonia boasts a well-forged reputation both as an e-government pioneer and for punching above its weight in the European Union (EU). So recent news that its central bank Eesti Pank is supporting its European counterpart’s research into a “digital euro” came as no surprise.
Rainer Olt, payment and settlement systems department head at Eesti Pank, is leading a team investigating the suitability of Estonia’s e-government technology for operating a central bank digital currency (CBDC). This is an increasingly hot topic for governments across the globe – from China’s journey towards a digital yuan, to the Bahamas’ recent launch of its “sand dollar”.
Curious but non-committal is most central bankers’ stance when it comes to CBDCs. This includes the European Central Bank (ECB), which will decide whether to give the green light to a digital currency by mid-2021. Olt, who worked at the ECB’s Frankfurt headquarters twice, strikes a similar tone. “I don’t think it’s a race but it seems we are steadily moving towards one [digital euro],” he says.
“There’s no immediate need,” he adds. “Even if we are using less cash, people are using cards or mobile payments, which work well and are secure. I don’t anticipate that cash will be redundant any time soon or at all.”
“CBDC can help supporting digitalisation of business processes and, more broadly, the economy,” he explains. “There are many technology-related questions as to scalability and other aspects that require a deep dive first.”