Caribbean CBDC Stays Down for More Than a Month as Technical Woes Continue

Source: AdobeStock / Debbie Ann Powell

 

DCash, a central bank digital currency (CBDC) commissioned by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), has remained offline for more than a month as technical issues continue to impact the platform, triggering growing concern among its users.

“The DCash platform remains unavailable, resulting in the temporary inability of all users to conduct transactions,” the CBDC operator said in a statement from February 14, the latest update to date. 

It added that “[t]he ECCB continues to work with service provider Bitt Inc to restore full system functionality.”

The ECCB announced in mid-January that the platform had suffered an “interruption” that did not compromise any data, but it forced DCash’s operator to halt all transactions.

DCash is a digital version of the Eastern Caribbean dollar. The digital payment option was put to use in five island economies that lie in the region: Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. 

To roll out DCash under a pilot project, the ECCB partnered with a number of banks, credit unions, and businesses, and commissioned service provider Bitt Inc to develop the CBDC.

Josh Lipsky, Director of the GeoEconomics Center of US think tank The Atlantic Council, told Bloomberg that the woes encountered by the CBDC’s operator highlighted the difficulties faced by countries that decide to launch their respective central bank-backed cryptoassets.

“This is an important case study in things that can go wrong in the rollout and expansion of a digital currency,” Lipsky said. “Every country trying [to] do a large rollout has had problems.”

Despite this, Geo. F. Huggins & Co., a Grenada-based holding that was the first business to accept a DCash payment about a year ago, remains convinced that the CBDC could become a key part of the region’s payments landscape.

“As we start to emerge from [COVID-19], we think that DCash will become one of the preferred payment options in the near future,” said Najuma Francis-Patrick, Corporate Marketing Manager at Geo. F. Huggins & Co.

Karina A. Johnson, Project Manager for the DCash project at the ECCB, told Cryptonews.com that after the platform experienced its first service interruption last January, which caused the system to be unavailable, the identified root cause of the interruption was the expiration of the identity certificate on nodes in the Hyperledger Fabric network.

“The certificate expiration’s impact was limited to the processing of new transactions to the DCash network. The security and integrity of all DCash applications and architecture — including all central bank, financial institutions, merchant and wallet apps — remain secure and unaffected,” she said. “We have since made significant progress towards restoration of the DCash platform, including successful closed testing of our system’s upgrade and Hyperledger Fabric upgrade, by representative financial institution partners.”

Johnson said the bank’s focus remains on returning a fully functional platform to the pilot partners and end-users, with enhanced system resilience to minimize service interruptions.

“The testing phase will end soon, after which service will resume,” according to the project manager.

The Eastern Caribbean CBDC was launched in March 2021. Meanwhile, the Barbados-based Bitt has been involved in various CBDC projects across the globe, including the roll-out of Nigeria’s eNaira.

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(Updated on February 25 at 15:28 UTC with comments from Karina A. Johnson.)