Sleepy Swiss town launches Tezos-backed Coronavirus aid program

    On Friday the Swiss town of Wetzikon — formerly best-known for its idyllic pastures and churches — launched a blockchain-based program to support small and medium-sized local businesses affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.

    Valued at 250,000 Swiss francs ($280,000), the initial aid disbursement will be funded with a municipal credit line earmarked for the Coronavirus and will be distributed to the roughly 25,000 inhabitants of Wetzikon in the form of an eCoupon worth 10 Swiss francs. 

    Residents can access the disbursement through a smartphone app, “ecoo,” which will be using the aid program as a pilot trial for its platform. 

    According to their website, ecoo is designed to help entities such as governments and event organizers distribute earmarked funds in the form of coins and points, and was built on the Tezos blockchain through a collaboration between the Swiss firms Papers AG and multiple subsidiaries of Farner Consulting AG. 

    On the app residents will be able to convert their coupons into “WetziKoins” that they can later use to make purchases at local companies. Local business owners can then convert the currency back into Swiss francs from the town administration, also via the app. 

    Ruedi Rüfenacht, Mayor of Wetzikon, said of the program: “Under the current circumstances it is imperative for us to act in favor of the local economy in a sustainable manner. With ecoo, we have found a viable solution to motivate the people of Wetzikon to shop in local stores instead of just buying online or from wholesalers outside our town. ”

    Wetzikon is not the only government that has explored using blockchain technology as a response to the Coronavirus. Bank of Canada exec Timothy Lane has previous called on central governments to prepare for Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) in an effort to encourage cross-border digital payments.