The governments of the United Arab Emirates, South Korea are among the first wave of national governments investing in state-sponsored metaverse platforms.
The metaverse was one of the main topics of discussion at the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2022 in June. Experts have predicted that the metaverse would be useful in a variety of fields, including medical and rescue operations, where it is sometimes impossible for humans to perform tasks in person, and where a facility of virtual reality can be of great help.
But several national governments are going much further and are already considering offering metaverse cities, with some supporters even calling for the United Nations to regulate it. During the World Economic Forum, the Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Omar Sultan Al Olama, warned of the possibility of “cyber-murder”, an act of virtual deadly violence directed against another person’s avatar. Minister Al Olama said cyber-murder could be a traumatic experience for users, who view the violence perpetrated against their virtual persona as an extension of themselves.
As a result, the minister advocated establishing international standards of conduct and safety to prohibit users from committing murder in the metaverse, regardless of where the users lived. In response, several human rights activists called the proposal hypocritical and a veiled attempt by the UAE to censor dissenting speech. “The purpose of this statement is not to fight crime, but an introduction to metaverse censorship. They use spyware under the guise of fighting terrorism, said the director of the Emirates Detainees’ Rights Center, Hamad Alshamsi. This proposal may create negative externalities by diverting the limited resources of the international community from solving more immediate and tangible problems.
The United Arab Emirates
On September 29, the United Arab Emirates’ Ministry of Economy announced via Twitter that it had established the first state-sponsored “metaverse office” to host official meetings and sign statements of agreement.
In a panel session at the Dubai Metaverse Forum, HE Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri, Minister of Economy: The UAE is a global hub for new economic opportunities and future technologies.
— Ministry of Economy – UAE (@Economyae) September 29, 2022
The ministry described the metaverse office as “an immersive environment where people can walk around, get their tokens, interact with others, and enjoy services. [du ministère de l’Économie]”. Most recently this month, the UAE launched Sharjaverse, the world’s first publicly accessible, government-backed metaverse city that will support the local tourism industry. Sharjah is the second most populous emirate in the United Arab Emirates with approximately 1.8 million inhabitants. While Sharjah is lesser known than Dubai, the Sharjaverse makes the city accessible to people around the world via virtual reality. Sharjaverse was designed by Multiverse Labs in collaboration with the Sharjah Commerce & Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA). The city includes a “Virtual Transaction Center” where users can interact with customer service agents to process official documents from state departments and receive information about Sharjah’s Department of Planning and Survey.
State officials anticipate that this new platform will help boost the country’s digital economy and the local tourism industry. Virtual tourism in Sharjahverse will provide unprecedented access to almost any location, personalized customer experiences and enhanced entertainment, said SCTDA President Khalid Jasim Al Midfa in an interview with Tech Wire Asia. Additionally, to help measure economic growth in the Metaverse, UAE Minister Omar Al Olama announced at the Dubai Metaverse Assembly that the government is developing a new metric, called “Gross Metaverse Product.” ”. This product will be able to create billions of dollars in returns from Dubai without people being physically in the emirate but experiencing it in the metaverse. Sectors the metric will be applied to include tourism, education, retail, real estate, and government. The Dubai Metaverse strategy aims to create 40,000 jobs and add $4 billion to the emirate’s economy over the next five years.
Under South Korea’s Digital New Deal program, the government has pledged approximately $177.1 million to fund metaverse development projects. One of the goals of this initiative is to allow South Koreans to use their digital avatar as a passport to receive state services and resources. On September 15, South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) and the National Data Policy Committee issued a press release stating that they would be drafting metaverse-specific regulatory changes. These changes are expected to address issues such as how to protect South Korean minors from online sexual harassment – for example, in 2021, South Korean authorities reported that a 30-year-old South Korean man had forged his age and lured minors onto the metaverse to send them inappropriate images in exchange for metaverse gifts. To address these security risks, the vice president of the Korea Communications Commission recently began discussions with Meta on how to protect minors online.
South Korea’s MSIT recently released a set of ethical guidelines that emphasize three pillars: promoting user expression, safe enjoyment, and sustainable prosperity. The MSIT estimates that South Korea’s expansion into the metaverse will total $140 million.
The Chinese government is investing in the development of a state-sanctioned metaverse platform. Local Chinese authorities in provinces like Shanghai, Hangzhou, Wuhan, and Hefei have proposed integrating and developing the metaverse to accelerate and promote digital growth and industry in their government work reports. However, some People’s Bank of China officials fear that the metaverse and cryptocurrencies could lead to an increase in crime and money laundering schemes. The director of the anti-money laundering unit of the People’s Bank of China, Gou Wenjun, offered to monitor the NFT and the metaverse at the State Summit on Financial Security in 2021. Efforts to cautiously develop a so-called Chinaverse platform continue. The International Data Corporation estimates that by 2025, about 37 million Chinese online users will have a virtual identity to browse.
Difficult to project oneself into this type of project piloted by governments which are not known to have succeeded in their transformation into Web2. We published a few months ago, two visions that give a glimpse of the future of the metaverse by private companies 🙂 One is the interview from the creator of Second Life, a metaverse created in 2003 who has a vision of the metaverse that contrasts sharply with Facebook’s strategy on the subject. The second shows the challenges and in particular having the amount of calculation required!
Going forward, the expected metaverse market value could reach $758.6 billion by 2026, according to a 2022 business study by Ernst & Young. Why are these states building a metaverse? I doubt that this is to make humanity bloom, but rather for the majority to control more the uses of their inhabitants, which will be power 10 compared to the uses on the Web2. Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market, also presented a three-step plan around the ambitions of the continent’s metaverse, while announcing the launch of a VR and AR coalition to encourage investment in the sector, but with an ethical vision by protecting fundamental rights.
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Several governments are considering offering metaverse cities
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