November 27, 2021
Seoul, Barbados check into metaverse as governments eye virtual presence  

Seoul, Barbados check into metaverse as governments eye virtual presence  

The metaverse will quickly be a spot to not simply purchase virtual items and meet avatars, however to additionally get important public companies, as governments put together to enter the quickly increasing digital world regardless of issues about privateness and different rights.  

Town of Seoul and the island nation of Barbados earlier this month mentioned they may enter the metaverse to supply administrative and consular companies, respectively.  

Different cities and international locations might observe go well with if the expertise turns into extra mainstream, analysts say.  

The statements got here amid a flurry of bulletins from firms together with Fb — now named Meta — saying they might spend money on the metaverse, a web-based realm that makes use of augmented and virtual actuality (VR) to assist customers work together.  

“It is in the best interest of governments to know about this universe intimately because the virtual world will replicate life and business,” mentioned Keith Carter, an affiliate professor on the Nationwide College of Singapore’s College of Computing.  

Metaverse — a time period first coined in science fiction — is a mix of the prefix “meta,” which means past, and “universe.” 

It has been used to explain a variety of shared worlds accessed through the web, from fully-immersive VR areas to augmented actuality accessed by way of units such as sensible glasses.  

The worldwide metaverse market is predicted to succeed in about $6 billion this 12 months and almost $42 billion by 2026, in accordance with analysis agency Technique Analytics, helped by elevated curiosity in virtual areas for work and leisure through the pandemic.  

There might be new roles for governments on this house the place jurisdiction isn’t as clearly outlined, mentioned Steve Benford, a professor of laptop science on the College of Nottingham.  

“Cybersecurity, freedom and protection of information, and online safety are issues that governments are already interested in, and this list can be expected to grow if and when the metaverse becomes an everyday experience for people,” he mentioned.  

“Governments are already shaping policies that will impact the metaverse, so arguably they have a duty to be visibly present in it for reasons of accountability,” mentioned Mr. Benford, who co-founded the Blended Actuality Laboratory on the college, which research and creates interactive applied sciences for day by day life.  


Seoul is the primary main metropolis to announce its entry into the metaverse, with the Seoul Metropolitan Authorities (SMG) constructing a “metaverse ecosystem for all administrative services regarding the economy, culture, tourism, education and civil complaints.”  

Metaverse Seoul, a platform for public companies, is scheduled to be full by the tip of subsequent 12 months. A virtual metropolis corridor, the place residents can meet avatars of public officers and file complaints, might be arrange in 2023, it mentioned in an announcement.  

Barbados will open what it says would be the world’s first metaverse embassy within the virtual actuality platform Decentraland, with embassies on different platforms additionally deliberate.  

“We are a small island nation — this gives us a way to expand our diplomatic footprint without adding dozens of physical embassies, which is not feasible for us,” mentioned Gabriel Abed, who’s main the Caribbean nation’s metaverse technique.  

“It gives us diplomatic parity with larger nations, and a fully immersive way to showcase our culture and business opportunities, while being fully in control of our environment,” mentioned Mr. Abed, who can also be ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.  

Smaller nations have so much to achieve within the metaverse, he mentioned, noting that Barbados was additionally fast to embrace a digital forex, like different small nations together with Malta, the Bahamas, and El Salvador.  

“COVID really shook up the world. Who knows when the next pandemic or lockdown will come — we cannot afford to not try out new technologies that can help us overcome these limitations,” he instructed the Thomson Reuters Basis.  


Whereas it’s unclear whether or not a full replication of actual life is feasible within the metaverse, and even how lengthy it’s going to take to construct, tech and authorized specialists are divided on who will wield management, and the way a lot cities and nationwide governments can acquire.  

Customers are pushing for an open, decentralized universe, and it’s doable that the metaverse may “eventually become its own constituency or jurisdiction, with its own representatives and civil service,” mentioned Mr. Benford.  

However governments may have a presence, too, he added.  

“Where else will the citizens of the metaverse stage a future protest?”  

Governments may additionally make the metaverse extra inclusive, with Seoul saying it’s going to have “numerous services for the vulnerable, including the disabled,” for his or her security and comfort. It’s also coaching older residents to assist navigate the virtual world.  

However the present expertise shouldn’t be ok, or low-cost sufficient, so cities “face big costs and no guarantee on returns,” mentioned Tony Matthews, a senior lecturer in city and environmental planning at Australia’s Griffith College.  

“I doubt many cities will be rushing to set up in the metaverse … the opportunities right now are limited and very expensive,” he mentioned, noting that folks have been fairly immune to VR because it grew to become mainstream a number of years in the past.  

When the expertise will get ok to encourage widespread uptake, nevertheless, main, everlasting virtual cities might emerge with their very own economies and markets, he mentioned.  

In some years, “we might all be as familiar with the cities of the metaverse as London, Paris and Tokyo. That could truly be transformative for real-world cities and their virtual siblings.” — Rina Chandran/Thomson Reuters Basis

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