The Republic of Palau, an island nation in the Pacific with just under 20,000 citizens, has partnered with blockchain research firm Cryptic Labs to launch the world’s first digital residency program.
The program uses Cryptic Labs’ Root Name System (RNS) technology, allowing anyone from around the world to apply. Once approved, users will be issued a non-fungible token (NFT) of their digital resident ID cards, giving them access to Palau-based perks like shipping services and a physical address.
But that’s not all the island has in store.
“Having been dependent on tourism, we’ve really suffered financially with the pandemic,” Palau President Surangel S. Whipps, Jr. told CoinDesk in an interview. “Leaning into blockchain, starting with this partnership, seemed like a natural step for us.”
The partnership is just the first blockchain-related venture Whipps has planned for the island nation in the coming years, he said, citing how countries like Singapore and El Savlador have been able to diversify their economies with a digital-first approach.
“We’re working on having a crypto exchange here. We’re working on a stablecoin. We’re working on a corporate registry,” Whipps told CoinDesk.
Also on the agenda for citizens of Palau are digital wallets for every resident. Whipps said he has already signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with crypto payments firm Ripple to make it happen.
“One of the challenges that we have in Palau is, it’s hard to get pennies, it’s hard to get quarters,” Whipps said. “Cash shortages are a real thing here, so what digital wallets would really provide is freedom, freedom from having to go to the bank.”
If the ambitious agenda comes to fruition, Palau would join the Marshall Islands in the region as crypto-forward countries looking to carve out an edge in the global economy.
The Marshall Islands announced a digital currency based on the Algorand blockchain in March 2020. The status of the currency’s rollout is unclear at this time.