Press TV – A blockchain and cryptocurrency research lab has been set up in Iran, says the head of the company contracted by the Central Bank of Iran to design and develop a national digital currency.
Despite rising interest in cryptocurrencies, Iran has been slow to embrace them, but CEO of Informatics Services Corporation Seyyed Abotaleb Najafi believes they can help expand banking services in the face of marauding US sanctions.
Iran’s central bank has contracted his company to gather information on blockchain and cryptocurreny technologies and establish a research lab, he told a conference on electronic banking and payment systems in Tehran Wednesday.
Blockchain is a digital ledger or database where transactions in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are recorded.
On Tuesday, financial services giant JPMorgan said the most meaningful impact of blockchain will probably be three to five years away and mostly on trade finance.
“Blockchain isn’t going to reinvent the global payment system, but it will provide marginal improvements,” JPMorgan’s chair of global research, Joyce Chang, told Bloomberg.
According to Iranian media reports, a state-backed national cryptocurrency backed by the local fiat unit, the rial, has already been developed but it has yet to be approved for use by the central bank.
Iran’s currency was targeted by the first round of US sanctions imposed in May after President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal.
Under US pressures, the global banking network SWIFT has dropped Iran from its platform, making international financial settlements with the country almost impossible.
Head of Iran’s Civil Defense Organization Brigadier General Gholam Reza Jalali has said cryptocurrencies present “great opportunities” for the country to bypass certain sanctions through untraceable banking operations.
Blockchain and other digital ledgers holding cryptocurrency records process transactions without being controlled by any person or entity.
Najafi said the goal behind using the blockchain is to gain new competitive advantage and create a new platform in existing business models.
“This technology can help reduce costs, improve specific processes, track customer information, increase security, reduce fraud and boost transparency,” he said.
Nevertheless, the US government is warning digital marketplaces that buy and sell Bitcoin and companies that sell computers used to process Bitcoin transactions to avoid providing services to Iranians, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.
Global exchanges Binance and Bittrex have reportedly unofficially dropped Iran from the list of supported countries to receive services.
However, dozens of foreign investors from Europe, Russia and Asia have considered moving their cryptocurrency operations to Iran because of their lower costs in the hydrocarbon-rich country, the NY Times said.