Sweden is fast becoming the world’s first cashless society. Whilst many herald this as a new progressive frontier, it does bring concerns such as privacy when every transaction you make is surveilled. Bitcoin could be the answer as it brings the anonymity of the traditional cash system.
Companies make no profit from the use of cash as it lacks harvestable personal data and it has to be physically managed. The consequence is a drive for cashlessness, and Sweden is leading the way. 900 of Sweden’s 1,600 bank branches no longer store cash, and they will not accept cash deposits. There is a decrease in the number of ATMs, and the circulation of the Swedish krona fell from 106bn in 2009 to 60bn in 2016.
“I don’t use cash any more, for anything. You just don’t need it. Shops don’t want it; lots of banks don’t even have it. Even for a candy bar or a paper, you use a card or phone.” said Louise Henriksson, a teaching assistant.
The situation has left Sweden’s central banks, such as Riksbank, wondering if the country should introduce a digital form of government-backed money? This answer could be Bitcoin.
Popular Swedish Payment Methods Are Visa and Swish
Cards are the main form of payment in Sweden, and according to Visa, Swedes use them three times more often than the average European. Swish, a very popular mobile app, was developed by Sweden’s major banks, including Nordea, Handelsbanken, SEB, Danske Bank, and Swedbank. Swish uses phone numbers to allow anyone with a smartphone to transfer money from one bank account to another in real time. It has become so popular that it is even used in the country’s churches to make donations.
“I think, in practice, Sweden will pretty much be a cashless society within about five years,” said Niklas Arvidsson, an associate professor specializing in payment systems innovation at Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology (KTH).
Privacy Concerns and Marginalisation
This reliance on purely card payments leads to privacy concerns, as well as marginalizing those who may not have both a bank account and a mobile telephone. Bitcoin does not require the user to have a bank account making it at least an improvement in that area, and it also allows the user to spend their money, if not totally anonymously, in a manner that is close enough to mimic the anonymous usage of cash.
Do you use cash anymore? Could Bitcoin potentially replace cash? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Images Courtesy of Bitcoinist archives and Wikimedia Commons.