[Dave Birch] Different groups of people are interested in digital money for different reasons.  Personally, I fall into the techno-determinist tribe: digital money is going to happen simply because it can be done, hence you may as well try to influence the evolution.  But there are other, more idealist tribes who look to the advent of an electronic alternative to notes and coins as a means to change the money system in some way.  I might (very) broadly categories them as the euroleft and the ameright.  The euroleft want digital money to become a vehicle for social or community currencies, whereas the ameright want digital money to become a vehicle for commodity currencies.  But in both cases, they want to use digital money technology to carry something other than fiat currency.

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What would happen if digital money meant that consumers and businesses had a real choice in which currency to use to everyday transactions.  Some already, of course.  In the U.S., for example, where you can use pesos to pay for pizza in Dallas.  But this isn’t really that interesting: before the euro was introduced there were many places in Europe where you could pay in a handful of different currencies.  But all of these currencies — the euro, the dollar, the pedo — are fiat currencies.  They are issued by governments, essentially, and have no intrinsic value.  If we put commodity currencies to one side for the time being, are there really people out there using local currencies rather than national currencies?  Actually, there are quite a few.  One such currency that has been attracting attention recently is in the Bavarian region of Chiemgau, where you can exist in a euro-free zone with a population of half a million people. Restaurants, bakeries, hairdressers and a network of supermarkets all accept the local currency: the Chiemgauer.  Notes are exchanged freely like legal tender.  You can even use a debit card.  The Chiemgauer is one of 16 regional currencies that have sprung into existence across Germany and Austria since the launch of the euro five years ago and another 49 regions are in the pipeline. They are outside the control of the political authorities, mostly run by activists, farmers, eco-enthusiasts, anti-globalists, and citizen committees.  This is really rather interesting, and a subject that we have touched on before at the Digital Money Forum with experts such as Bernard Lieater and Michael Linton.

Fortunately, one of Germany’s leading experts on regional and complementary currencies, Dr. Margrit Kennedy of Moneta, has kindly agreed to come along and present at this year’s Digital Money Forum in London on March 28th and 29th 2007.  So be sure to come along and hear another perspective on where developments in the retail e-payments might take us.

My opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public. [posted with ecto]

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