PaymentExpert spoke with Alex Lam, CEO and co-founder of digital asset services platform RockX, about Asia’s push for a cashless society and the growth of modern tech, such as blockchain, in the region.
In what ways can cash-dependent areas in Asia transition towards being a more cashless society as the region continues to become more digitised?
Asia is definitely making moves in the right direction when it comes to becoming a more digitalised, cashless society.
China, in particular, has been a long-standing front runner since 2017 when more than three-quarters of Chinese individuals were using digital payments as opposed to cash.
To remain at the head of the pack, Asian governments need to prioritise policies and initiatives, such as Singapore’s pledge to become a cheque free city by 2025, the Indian governments Unified Payments Interface (UPI), a platform that allows consumers to use a single smartphone application to make payments, or the Thai Central Bank’s blockchain-based solution that will enable the central bank to settle interbank transactions using a digital currency.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of becoming a cashless ecosystem?
In short, living in a cashless society means faster transactions and lower transfer and settlement costs.
International and cross-border payments may also become more efficient as the majority of consumers will eventually have access to digital ways of making payment.
However, cashless societies will also face security concerns, whereby personal information can be easily exposed, increasing the risks of cyber attacks.
Saying that, the integration of blockchain technology to these digital payment platforms can assist in mitigating these attacks, due to the decentralised nature of the technology.
A move away from cash could potentially alienate the unbanked or even organisations and individuals that rely on cash donations.
However, this is a recognised issue within the blockchain industry and where tech for good comes to the fore with multiple projects such as BitGive, a nonprofit organisation that solicits bitcoin donations for use in charitable causes or charities, or even Facebook’s Libra that claims to service the world’s poor and unbanked.
What is the most vital element to further digital asset adoption in Asia?
Blockchain innovation is a crucial element in driving the mainstream adoption of digital assets.
With Asia, and Singapore in particular, at the forefront of technological advancements – the Singapore government’s open-mindedness towards the benefits of blockchain technology with Project Ubin, combined with the thriving blockchain ecosystem comprised of multiple leading projects, funds, institutions, and exchanges, makes Singapore an obvious hotbed for blockchain projects aimed at propelling the widespread acceptance of digital assets.
Separately, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China recently outlined its strategy for including digital currency plans in its guidelines for the future development of the Shenzhen Special Economic zone, highlighting yet another step in the right direction for the industry.