So, what next, and where?
What can we conclude from our highly abstract analysis? The general picture that emerges is that there is most scope for improvement across Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and parts of southern Asia, although for different reasons. In Africa, access to credit is most limited. In South America, efficiency and cost of finance offer opportunities. In southern Asia and Central America, a cross-border digital currency infrastructure might primarily be in demand to facilitate cheaper remittances.
Yet whether the introduction of a digital currency would be a successful or even sensible next step in the countries concerned, cannot be determined just by comparing a few global indicators. Relevant domestic circumstances are, for example, poverty levels, trust in and acceptance of intangible payment instruments among both merchants and the public, the presence and reliability of power and communications networks, and the applicable regulatory framework, to name just a few.
The introduction of a digital currency really requires a country-by-country approach
From a technical perspective, a digital currency infrastructure can only thrive if it is connected to and integrated into domestic and international systems, against manageable operating costs. This requires cross-border coordination and harmonisation by regulators, for instance, to agree on a digital identification method. Technical standardisation is also needed to avoid creating a new infrastructure which may develop into another difficult-to-maintain legacy a few decades down the road.
To conclude, while global analysis yields insights in the possible use cases for digital currencies across regions, the introduction of a digital currency really requires a country-by-country approach, taking into consideration local needs, circumstances and policies. Nonetheless, we note that demand for digital currency is more likely to rise in those places where the financial system is less developed and more fragmented.