UC Berkeley [School of Information Management and Systems]

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[Info Sys 204]

December, 1997

Exploring Digital Cash


This exploration of digital cash is a project for Information Systems 204, "Information Users and Society." Our group has delved into the issues surrounding digital cash and electronic commerce, both to investigate issues raised by these new developments, and to look at some specific products and proposals in these fields.

The prospect of digital cash as a developing method of payment is both exciting and worrisome. Many different interest groups have issues which must be addressed before digital cash and electronic commerce can proliferate. Among these issues are anonymity and privacy, security, ease and cost of use, standards, infrastructure, control of the money supply and criminal activity. And as is to be expected, the positions of some interest groups are directly opposite to those of others groups. The discussions that resolve these differences will shape the way that digital cash will evolve in the United States, and how well it will work for consumers.

As we began studying these issues, it became apparent that "Digital Cash" was being used to describe many different kinds of products, from micropayment to smart cards to actual digitized value stored in computers. Each system is different, has different requirements and capabilities, and potentially different problems. But just examining digital cash raised an important problem for our group: this is such a rapidly developing field right now that any information and links we've provided may quickly become dated. This set of web pages is an investigation of the products, issues and potentials of digital cash at this time (September to December, 1997) and should be understood as such. During our work on this project, some companies have disappeared while others have begun widespread testing of their products. This field will likely continue to evolve remarkably quickly, but the issues we raise about how digital cash will develop (and how different groups want it to develop) are also likely to create temporary roadblocks in the continued development of widespread electronic commerce in the United States.

We welcome questions, comments and observations from readers of this project.

Prepared by:
Carol Anderson
Carol Butler
Arti Kirch
Daniel McMahon
Rick Murtha
Lisa Parks

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