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#10: Global Policy
With a special guest contributor!
The Emergence of Metaverse Policy: Who’s Leading the Way?
This analysis comes from Isabella Williamson, an emerging technologies strategist at Consulum, a government advisory firm dedicated to helping governments develop, lead and deliver positive programmes that successfully promote their global interests. Isabel advises key public sector stakeholders in the GCC region on the implications of the Metaverse, Web3 and AI for their organisation from a strategy, policy and communications perspective.
‘Metaverse policy’ is a new term that has grown in popularity with the belief that increased interactivity and immersion will be a critical part of the internet’s future. It refers to how governments approach and address the development, use, and impact of the metaverse to ensure that their people, institutions and global positioning are prepared for—and excel in—the next digital age.
For the past two decades, governments worldwide have been involved in virtual worlds, evolving their activities in line with policy objectives, audience preferences and broader digital trends. In 2003, to bring national culture to a growing global, tech-savvy audience, Sweden, Estonia and the Maldives created experiences in Second Life—a virtual world—with Sweden leading with the first virtual government-sanctioned embassy.
During the 2010s, governments tapped into Minecraft's popularity to engage citizens in urban development projects. The UK’s Ordnance Survey, Victoria’s Department of Education and Training (Australia), Denmark’s Geodata Agency, Sweden’s National Land Survey, and Norway’s Kartverket embraced this trend between 2013 and 2019, georeferencing whole cities and countries in the sandbox game.
Between 2020 and 2023, market shifts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the strengthening link between virtual and physical world economies and large corporate backing for the metaverse and immersive technologies transformed the value proposition of virtual worlds, catalyzing further global attention and engagement.
To date, at least 20 countries have responded to the shifting digital landscape, launching initiatives that appear more varied and ambitious than the select few active 20 years earlier. Recognising the rising importance of the virtual realm, state actors are seeking to establish a foothold in what is quickly becoming a new dimension of a complex social, economic and political global landscape.
Some governments have focused on ensuring public sector representation and access to administrative services in virtual spaces, such as Seoul’s virtual municipal platform Metaverse Seoul, Barbados’ virtual embassy in Decentraland and Norway’s virtual Brønnøysund which saw that “future users of public services are there [in the metaverse]”.
Other countries, such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Tuvalu, and Madagascar, have launched experiences to promote national amenities and policy narratives. For example, Tuvalu launched a digital twin of itself to raise awareness about how climate change adversely impacts the island nation.
Driving long-term economic growth and competitiveness has been a priority for several countries, including the UAE and its Emirate of Dubai, which launched a Metaverse Strategy to “turn Dubai into one the world’s top 10 metaverse economies” in July 2022. Japan announced plans to work with the private sector to create a Japanese Metaverse Economic Zone (Ryugukoku), while Indonesia’s national telecommunications company PT Telekom launched MetaNesia to promote local firms in international business.
In some cases, national identity and values have proven important. The European Union’s virtual worlds strategy reflected a broader consideration for cultivating a metaverse rooted in key values of openness, safety, trustworthiness, fairness and inclusivity. In April 2023, France launched a public consultation for guidance on creating a “French-style” metaverse. China, meanwhile, indicated that it wants to centralise virtual worlds under state control, focusing on aspects of the metaverse that can directly benefit the economy.
In the years ahead, we will better understand the depth of governments’ commitment to metaverse policy. As critical elements underpinning the metaverse quickly converge, moving us closer to a more immersive internet, governments need to take a proactive stance. This involves formulating a holistic strategy that aligns with current digital transformation efforts, and intensifying collaboration with the private sector to tap into the latest ingenuity that can differentiate them in an increasingly competitive digital landscape.
Isabella is the author of Consulum’s latest publication, “Enter the Metaverse: Time for governments to be bold – and choose wisely” and is conducting first-of-its-kind research into how governments are approaching the metaverse. Follow Isabella on LinkedIn for more.
A Global Snapshot: How Governments are Approaching the Metaverse
Into the EU metaverse…
The Internet Market and Consumer Protection Committee published its Draft Report on "Virtual worlds — opportunities, risks and policy implications for the single market.”
The report focuses on key issues—strategic autonomy, accessibility, consumer protection, connectivity, and sustainability—and calls on the Commission to publish regular ‘fitness checks’ to monitor virtual worlds.
Full summary here.
Elsewhere in Europe
🇫🇮 Business Finland, the Finnish government’s innovation hub, presented its latest research on the Finnish XR ecosystem.
🇪🇸 Joint research by BBVA and the FAD Youth Foundation found that 40% of Spanish students and 18% of teachers are interested in using the metaverse in education.
🇦🇹 GoStudent, a unicorn—valued over $1 billion—VR education technology and tutoring platform, raised another €90 million, including from 🇩🇪 Deutsche Bank.
🇮🇪 Electronic Musician Aphex Twin launched an AR app—“almost as trippy as his music”—that interacts with the physical packaging of his latest EP.
🇩🇰 The Copenhagen Fashion Week—the largest of its kind in Scandinavia—partnered with Drest to allow fans to style avatars in real-life luxury brands and events.
🇮🇹 The 80th Venice International Film Festival will present 43 extended reality projects in the Venice Immersive section, also available in a virtual festival.
🇫🇮 Nokia teamed up with TPG Telecom and MediaTek to showcase a live 360-degree broadcast of “The Future of the Metaverse,” showing off the potential of 5G.
🇮🇹 Under the “meta-roma2024” banner, the European Athletics Championships announced it will use immersive technologies to connect participants worldwide.
14 Sep AR/VR Policy Conference 2023 (online)
18 Oct – 20 Oct Stereopsia (Brussels 🇧🇪)
24 Oct – 25 Oct AWE EU (Vienna 🇦🇹)
1 Nov – 3 Nov MET AMS (Amsterdam 🇳🇱)
15 Nov – 16 Nov MetaDays (Paris 🇫🇷)
15 Nov – 16 Nov Unite 2023 (Amsterdam 🇳🇱)
21 Nov The Fusion of AI and Corporate Metaverse (Kirchberg 🇱🇺)
27 Nov – 1 Dec Immersive Tech Week (Rotterdam 🇳🇱)
29 Nov Match XR 2023 (Helsinki 🇫🇮)
26 Feb – 29 Feb Mobile World Capital Barcelona (Barcelona 🇪🇸)
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