On November 8, millions of Australians experienced a failure of their telecommunication services for about 14 hours. Optus, one of the service providers blamed the outage on a “network event” that triggered a “cascading failure”.  While some were frustrated they could not get emails or see the latest Facebook posts, this outage also affected the ability of non cash payments to be completed.  Taxis, small business owners, coffee shops, fast food places could not serve customers who did not have cash. So this raises the question, are telecommunication failures good for cash?  

The Optus Telecommunication Failure Showed Cash is Still Needed | Source: AS

What happened in Australia is not an isolated example.  Not a week goes by where there is not a story of a significant outage that shuts down a retail systems. An emerging trend/threat among various has also been ransomware or hackers holding companies at their mercy.

Radio Communication and Cell Tower In Australia | Source: AS

The promise of a “cashless society” has always been to enable smooth, low cost transactions.  But cash offers the public resiliency in a time of cyber-threats and overloaded digital systems.  The reality is, we like our digital wallets, scan & go and credit cards, but we should always have a back-up plan- CASH! So if you want to guarantee you get your grande almond milk cappuccino with extra foam in the morning, keep some cash on hand!  And drop a small gratuity in the jar for your barista.

Australia 5 Dollars Banknote, 2016 | Source: Banknote World

While many still believe that we will be cashless some day, recent telecommunication failures show that cash is still widely in use and needed. Lets look at some Australian banknotes that were in use during the outage a few weeks ago. Australia 5 Dollars , 2016. The banknote features the Prickly Moses wattle and the Eastern Spinebill bird on both sides of the note. The obverse side highlights a middle-aged Queen Elizabeth II and the reverse side features a picture of the New Parliament House and the Parliaments forecourt mosaic.

Australia 100 Dollars Banknote, 2020 | Source: Banknote World

Australia 100 Dollars, 2020. It is a green, orange, and yellow polymer banknote. Its obverse side features an Australian masked owl (Tyto novaehollandiae), a Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha), a monogram from the cover of Melba’s homecoming concert tour program of 1902, a portrait of Nellie Melba, and Melba performing as Rosina from Barber of Seville. Its reverse side shows the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne and a portrait of John Monash.

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