Governing in the metaverse

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Governments are joining the metaverse, bringing public services online. As the metaverse continues to grow and evolve, state authorities are meeting constituents where they’re spending their time.

As the first major city to officially join the metaverse, Metaverse Seoul is building out its public service digital platform, which will include a virtual city hall, public gathering spaces, and digital community services. Announced in November, the platform will host the city’s entertainment and cultural events and provide space for civil complaints and services. The immersive portal will be introduced on New Year’s Eve 2021, at which time the city’s traditional Bosingak bell-ringing ceremony will occur simultaneously in both the physical and virtual worlds. Seoul has indicated that the new realm will support the city’s economic, educational, and tourism industries as well.

In November, Barbados announced that it plans to open the world’s first metaverse embassy in Decentraland. The small island nation has been championing digital advancements, adopted a digital currency in April of this year, and has plans to expand its embassies to other virtual platforms. Gabriel Abed, an ambassador to the United Arab Emirates leading the nation’s transition into the metaverse, anticipates that this digital presence “gives us diplomatic parity with larger nations, and a fully immersive way to showcase our culture and business opportunities,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Essential public services are becoming virtual assets for states and governments, indicative of a heightened attention to and participation in online lifestyles and communities. Keith Carter, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore's School of Computing, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that joining the metaverse "is in the best interest of governments to know about this universe intimately because the virtual world will replicate life and business.” Cities and smaller nations are taking their first steps into the virtual world; will other countries follow suit?