The Central Bank says a total of nine firms will likely be approved to start distributing Bahamian digital dollars, thereby significantly increasing their availability to the public, by early 2021.
The regulator, in a statement, said three institutions - including a credit union and commercial bank - were currently undergoing cyber security assessments of their systems in a bid to join the six already approved to integrate the digital currency - the Sand Dollar - into their mobile wallet platforms and start distributing them to clients.
"Businesses and individuals who have already selected a digital payments provider can expect that the Sand Dollar will be available within the same environment in which they have enrolled once their providers complete systems upgrades," the Central Bank said, adding that a website dedicated to the digital currency will launch today.
"Early enrolment with a digital wallet provider ensures that the users will have immediate use of Sand Dollars as soon as the feature is enabled by their wallet provider. Sand Dollar-authorised financial institutions (AFIs) are being encouraged to disclose their product development timelines. This will provide customers with awareness as to when this digital currency activation would be completed."
The Central Bank explained that enrolled businesses and individuals will be able to transact, and send and receive funds with any other digital wallet, once the transaction is in Sand Dollars. However, it added that some payment providers have adopted a two-phased approach to product development.
This will make the Sand Dollar available within their own networks before such networks are fully interoperable and linked to third-party wallets. Cross-platform interoperability should be achieved for such providers during early 2021, the Central Bank said. Some providers, though, expect they will be fully interoperable with third-party Sand Dollar wallets upon the initial product launch.
The Central Bank also pledged to accelerate public education around digital financial services in early 2021 to coincide with the Sand Dollar roll-out. It said this campaign includes today's launch of the www.SandDollar.bs website.
The public relations campaign, the Central Bank added, will begin to ramp up during the 2021 first quarter once digital currency access is enabled across multiple mobile wallet platforms. The regulator said it will unveil more details on the Sand Dollar's regulatory environment, including minimum interoperability and financial inclusion standards, this month.