Watch this space: do governments stand to gain from the metaverse?

By on 18/06/2023 | Updated on 15/06/2023

The metaverse may have arrived, but its applications are limited and its use by public sector organisations is still very much up for debate. While some governments boast big plans, many have yet to hear a convincing case for adoption. At a Global Government Forum webinar, experts sought to demystify the next great leap in virtual reality

Could the metaverse – an immersive online world where people can game, work and communicate in a virtual environment, often using augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headsets – improve team building, employee engagement and problem-solving within governments? And could it make interacting with governments easier and more enjoyable for citizens?

Since Facebook rebranded to ‘Meta’ in 2021 – signifying its move beyond social media to areas like VR – such questions have been asked more and more frequently within the public sector. The launch of Apple’s Vision Pro AR and VR headset this year provides yet another talking point around what such technologies could mean for us all within the next decade. Research and investment into the metaverse by some governments shows just how fast things are moving. But will they prove prescient, or serve as warnings against the dangers of hyperbole?

In a webinar titled ‘Seeing through the hype: what potential does the metaverse hold for governments?’, five public sector leaders from the UK, India, South Korea and the OECD discussed whether public authorities are right to be exploring this frontier of immersive technology, where opportunities for the delivery of better citizen services lie, and what barriers there are to governments accessing its benefits.

Here we present the best bits of the conversation, with accompanying clips.

The metaverse presents many challenges for government: regulation and governance, keeping users (and their data) safe, ensuring inclusive access, and building the required skills across the public sector. Benjamin Welby, a policy analyst in the Digital Government and Data Unit of the Open and Innovative Government Division, Directorate for Public Governance (GOV) at the OECD, gave a comprehensive rundown of these hurdles.

One proof-of-concept example of the metaverse is Metaverse Seoul, which is up and running, as SuAn Wang, external relations manager of the Digital Policy Division of the Seoul Metropolitan Government explained.

Gayatri Pandurangi, senior technical director of India’s National Informatics Centre, which sits within the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, listed some interesting potential benefits of the metaverse, including access to services and networks in agriculture, education, health in a country such as India. 

Governments around the world are doing much to develop their mobile service strategies, but should keep in mind that VR could in fact be the future, Welby said:

The metaverse could ultimately be one seamless platform, or a series of “walled gardens”. Either way, facilitating interoperability will be a key challenge for governments, as unpacked by Hannah Yusuf-George, deputy director of digital strategy at the UK Department for Science, Innovation & Technology.

As ever, large private companies enjoy a head-start in the formation and rollout of transformative technologies. Drawing on his own experience of the private sector, David Knott, chief technology officer of the Central Digital and Data Office within the UK Cabinet Office, spoke about how governments can extract the most value from the metaverse for themselves.

To learn all this and more, you can watch the full Seeing through the hype: what potential does the metaverse hold for governments? webinar on our dedicated events page. The webinar, hosted by Global Government Forum, was held on 23 May 2023.

Join Global Government Forum’s LinkedIn group to keep up to date with all the insight public and civil servants need to know.

About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *