Editorial: Cashing out

What is the price for change?

It wasn’t that long ago that we lost the penny, but are we ready for a cashless society?

As far back as 2013, a MasterCard study identified Canada as one of the leading countries on the path to doing away with folding money and coins.

One more reason to carry those coins around took a shot this week when Penticton announced a trial allowing you to feed a parking meter via an app on your phone rather than dropping coins in the slot.

Penticton’s not the first to give the idea a shot. Other cities, like Kelowna, already have established systems, and more are considering it.

Like so many apps before it, it’s a simple idea but it promises to be a major disruptor of the way we, as a society, do things. Without a doubt, it’s an attractive idea for cities. The more pay-by-phone parking is adopted, the more the cost of managing a city’s parking system is going to drop, starting with reducing the number of times meters need to be emptied of their hoard of coins.

Eventually, the question will be asked if we need parking meters at all, or if it makes more sense for a city to switch over entirely to a virtual system, eliminating the option of using cash altogether.

It’s astounding to consider that it’s only been about twenty years since the popular adoption of the internet, 10 years since the introduction of mobile technology, both key factors in making a cashless society possible.

This is just the latest in a list of disruptors over that decade: Uber, Amazon, Ebay, Facebook, the list is endless. Disruptive technologies have always been with us — think printing press — but they are now coming at a blinding speed.

All these changes bring a certain amount of convenience to us both as individuals and communities, but we should never forget to look at the price for that convenience.

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