Banco Central del Ecuador (BCE) announced it has officially entered into the first phase of the establishment of its own electronic cash system, asking citizens over 18 years old to open an account using their smartphones.

Starting from December 23, Ecuador citizens over 18 years old can open an electronic money account using a simple code that is required to be enter on their mobile phones, reads the official release. This date triggers the beginning of the country's three-phase launch, said the central bank.

From mid-February 2015, the second phase will consist in processing the first transactions with the delivery of the electronic cash, the issuance of commercial receipts, and the allowance of bank transfers.

In the second half of 2015, users will be able to pay for utilities, tax obligations, orders and other use cases, using the electronic money, continued the release.

Most transactions will be free of charge and the rest will cost a few cents, noted the authority.

Mateo Villalba, manager at the BCE, stated that children, tourists and foreigners are not given the ability to register an electronic money account. However, citizens from other countries who already have an Ecuador certificate may be part of the system, reported media outlet Telesur.

Announced in late August, the government-backed digital currency is widely believed to be an attempt to challenge the US dollar as the country's legal tender. The plan was approved in July in a session of the Ecuador's National Assembly, and ultimately banned the use of "stateless" digital currencies such as Bitcoin.

Other countries, including the Philippines, have also considered issuing their own digital currencies. In early October, Filipino lawmaker Kimi S. Cojuangco, unveiled the "E-Peso Act 2014," a bill that she pushed to be immediately enacted as she stated that the Philippines is lacking "an official medium of exchange or money for the Internet." 

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