On Thursday, Ecuador took a step closer to becoming the first country with a digital currency, according to a report from The Guardian.
With Ecuador’s new system, people can store money and make payments in a digital wallet on their phones. Users can go into any participating bank with hard cash and exchange it for an equal amount of digital dollars. While digital wallet systems aren’t new, Ecuador’s will be the first with full government control. Ecuador’s Central Bank will manage the system—monitoring the system, securing it against attack, and backing up every digital dollar with one held in reserve.
With the new system, Ecuador is not abandoning the U.S. dollar, adopted by Ecuador in 2000. However, in the same bill authorizing the new digital system, Ecuador also banned other digital currencies, such as Bitcoin.
Critics of the bill call it a presidential power grab, while proponents claim it is a progressive move in an increasingly digital world.
Since sign ups began in December 2014, public interest has been lackluster. Of Ecuador’s 15 million people, only 8,000 have signed up so far. The Central Bank hopes to have 500,000 signed up by the end of the year.