In 2021, the National Bank of the Republic of Kazakhstan implemented the Digital Tenge Pilot Project in close cooperation with financial market participants, the expert community, and international partners.
The milestones of the Pilot Project in 2021
- Advisory Report was published for public comment in May.
- From May to December, a series of meetings and discussions were held with market participants, the expert community, government agencies, and international partners.
- In June, a pilot project was launched to assess the Digital Tenge’s technical feasibility within which a prototype platform was created, and several scenarios were tested with the external participants being connected via participation of second-tier banks.
- In September, surveys and interviews with market participants were conducted to clarify priorities and needs in the new payment instruments development.
- In November, the Pilot Project’s preliminary results were presented within the framework of the IX Congress of Financiers of Kazakhstan.
- In December, a report was prepared on the Pilot Project’s results.
The main objectives of the 2021 Pilot Project were to test the Digital Tenge concept’s feasibility through experimental confirmation of the retail platform’s technological viability based on distributed ledger technology, as well as to determine the main parameters of the CBDC Model for Kazakhstan in cooperation with all stakeholders.
As a part of the Pilot Project, the basic scenarios for the Digital Tenge life cycle were implemented from issuing and distribution to purchases and transfers via Digital Tenge.
As a result of the project, hypotheses related to the Digital Tenge concept’s technological feasibility were confirmed and a list of issues and tasks for further development was created. In addition, a primary model was developed for assessing the impact of the Digital Tenge on the economy, financial stability and monetary policy, and possible approaches to regulation were also prepared.
Decision-Making Framework development in 2022
In 2022, the National Bank continued to study the benefits and costs of the possible implementation of the Digital Tenge. Currently, there is ongoing work to expand the platform’s technological functionality and quantitative economic research.
In order to involve financial market participants and other stakeholders, the Digital Tenge Hub collaborative platform was launched in June 2022 bringing together all interested parties to jointly study the issues of implementing a national Digital Currency in Kazakhstan.
In order to complete the instruction given by the President, the National Bank developed a decision-Making Framework on the implementation of Digital Tenge to develop a recommended decision on the need to create national Digital Currency in Kazakhstan, to provide related comprehensive study, and to determine the benefits and costs of the possible implementation of Digital Tenge.
The Framework considers the tools recommended by international organizations as well as the approaches of foreign regulators. It includes the studies to assess the Digital Tenge design’s technological feasibility, potential economic benefits and costs, regulatory capabilities of the system, and the potential for ecosystem development.
In the Framework, the aspects of the CBDC implementation are examined via various tools for innovative projects evaluation: experimental evaluation with the use of a pilot project, economic modeling, a series of discussions with the market, analysis of the other projects’ results, etc.
These approaches are aimed to create a detailed logical structure with justifications for certain decisions, to check such decisions’ compliance with their key principles (in particular, the principles of market economy and cooperation between business participants within the proposed ecosystem), and to test the selected approaches’ feasibility in the context of technology, economy, interaction of participants and regulation.
The Framework’s structure groups the questions and analysis criteria into four blocks:
- the main parameters that determine the Digital Tenge’s architecture,
- determining the Digital Tenge’s design with respect to architecture and economic issues,
- the assessment of the Digital Tenge’s selected design feasibility,
- the analysis of the conceptual operational and regulatory models.
Research results in 2022
The Digital Tenge platform was successfully tested with real consumers and merchants in cooperation with market participants. The DT’s entire life cycle (including the programmability and demonstration of the offline transactions chain) was tested.
Economic modeling results revealed the absence of risks to monetary policy, financial stability, and the economy. According to a representative survey, 60% of respondents expressed willingness to use the Digital Tenge.
The series of discussions and design sessions with all stakeholders were held based within the Digital Tenge Hub collaborative platform launched this year. In addition, the Digital Tenge Ideathon was held to gather ideas from market participants.
The regulatory aspects of implementing the Digital Tenge were analyzed, and the ecosystem development approaches were also investigated.
Implementation of Stage One in 2023
To this date, the Digital Tenge Project has focused on developing a retail central bank digital currency (CBDC). However, there were numerous news and events in the past several months, followed by the NBK’s consultations with stakeholders and the market participants related to a broader use and adoption of the Kazakhstani digital currency.
All these considerations resulted in several sub-projects and initiatives covering wholesale applications and usage, including securities settlement, stablecoin-related initiatives, and cross-border and social payments, in addition to the study on retail CBDC conducted by the NBK in previous years.
Therefore, the broader Digital Tenge initiative has become more of a “general purpose” CBDC than the initial retail proposition. The general-purpose Digital Tenge research investigates widespread use by all users and covers advanced scenarios to test new hypotheses and ideas for wholesale and retail CBDC.
In this regard, two separate environments of the Digital Tenge platform are planned for 2023, particularly, industrial and experimental, also known as R&D, ones. All obtained results are to be published in the 2023 final report in December. This information will be utilized to determine and select optimal architectural trade-offs for developing the target architecture for Digital Tenge.