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Omidyar Network Leads Investment in eCurrency Technology; First-ever Central Bank-backed Digital Currency

Omidyar Network announced on Thursday, 17th December, 2015 a for-profit investment in eCurrency Mint (eCM), a Dublin-based company that has pioneered a new technology enabling central banks to issue digital fiat currency, called eCurrency. The investment is part of Omidyar Network’s Financial Inclusion initiative, which focuses on supporting innovative technologies to massively increase reach and scale impact of affordable, convenient, and flexible financial services to consumers and small businesses globally. Funds raised during this Series C round of investments led by Omidyar Network will make eCM’s path-breaking technology available to central banks around the world, enabling them to efficiently and securely evolve their national currencies to keep pace with today’s digital world.

Tilman Ehrbeck, Partner at Omidyar, said: “Paper-based money is becoming an antiquated tool in an increasingly digital economy. It often causes those who rely heavily on cash to conduct their financial lives to be locked out of the formal financial system and the opportunities it presents. eCurrency can help accelerate financial inclusion by turning today’s digital value systems into sovereign-backed national currencies, increasing trust, and addressing key issues hindering their adoption today, such as interoperability.”

eCurrency is different from the various forms of private sector-issued digital value available today because it is issued by a central bank, and has the same legal and monetary status as notes and coins. More than just a ledger, eCurrency is an end-to-end solution that combines hardware, software and cryptographic security protocols to enable a country’s central bank to not only issue digital fiat currency, but also fully manage its operation, including the ability to monitor its movement through payments systems in near-real time—a new, powerful monetary policy tool.

According to Jonathan Dharmapalan, Founder and CEO of eCM: “As technological advancements have connected people globally, the payments industry has provided them with better, digital ways to transact. If we think of digital transaction platforms as a system of pipes, then mobile has added the last miles of these pipes, and the internet is reaching people at the farthest corners of the world. But as this digital revolution has been taking place, the issuance of currency has essentially remained the same.

“What eCurrency will enable central banks to do is to issue a single, safe digital currency instrument running through these pipes, making the entire system more secure, transparent, efficient, and more importantly, trustworthy, now backed by the country’s central bank.”

eCurrency also delivers major savings to governments and taxpayers: the cost of minting and distributing eCurrency is around one-tenth of the cost of printing, securing, distributing, and eventually destroying paper-based money. The solution, designed to work seamlessly across all existing payments systems without the need to change current infrastructure, has been developed based on feedback received through direct engagement with 30 central banks, successfully piloted in multiple countries, and can be customized to comply with nation-specific security and regulatory frameworks.

The way eCurrency works is that once the technology is acquired by a country’s central bank, eCurrency can only be minted by the central bank in an offline process. Each unit of eCurrency consists of a “cryptocomplex”: a self-contained security instrument made up of many layers of security technology uniquely bound together to ensure eCurrency cannot be counterfeited or compromised. After deployment, eCurrency’s security features can be updated real-time, in order to stay ahead of counterfeiting threats.

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