Aug 24, 2023
The metaverse, or the 3D internet, represents the convergence of virtual and physical realities, creating a shared digital space where people can engage in activities ranging from attending concerts to shopping, all from their homes. Its emergence promises transformative impacts across sectors. It can revolutionize economic models with virtual real estate and digital commerce, redefine education through immersive virtual classrooms, offer novel entertainment experiences, and make healthcare more accessible via virtual consultations. Considering its broader implications, it's crucial to recognize the potential it holds for governments, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The metaverse offers a platform for these governments to engage with citizens, stimulate economic growth, and address societal challenges.
The metaverse and its socioeconomic potential
The metaverse is a growing digital universe built by leveraging several technologies, like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), and digital twins, that blend physical and digital worlds. It's a dynamic space where users seamlessly engage with computer-generated environments and each other. Economically, the 3D internet is a goldmine of opportunities. It's paving the way for novel markets like virtual real estate and digital commodities, from avatar fashion to unique art pieces. As it expands, new job roles emerge, from virtual architects to digital event planners. Beyond commerce, the metaverse enhances global citizen engagement, education, healthcare delivery, and immersive social interactions.
Metaverse-powered governance and services
Governments in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region can harness the metaverse to revolutionize governance and public services by capitalizing on its immersive and interactive capabilities to become more efficient and resident-centric.
Here are a few ways governments can use the 3D internet:
Virtual town halls and public forums: Governments can create digital replicas of public spaces where citizens can gather for town hall meetings, public hearings, or community discussions. For instance, a city in the UAE could host a virtual forum in the metaverse where residents discuss urban development plans and be actively involved in decision-making. This approach ensures broader participation, as geographical constraints are eliminated, and citizens can engage from the comfort of their homes.
Digital identification systems: As governments work to create digital identity solutions, the metaverse can facilitate the creation of digital avatars linked to verified identities. For example, Saudi Arabia’s ‘Absher’ platform offers citizens and residents a secure digital identity, streamlining administrative tasks, access to government services, and enhancing user convenience. As the 3D internet expands, governments can integrate authenticated digital identities into the metaverse for secure, verified interactions. For example, such identities could ascertain a user's age or nationality in virtual spaces, ensuring appropriate access and enhancing trust in virtual interactions.
Streamlined administrative processes: Traditional bureaucratic processes can be transformed into efficient digital workflows in the metaverse. Imagine a scenario where a business owner in Egypt wants to renew a trade license. Instead of visiting multiple physical offices, they could navigate through a virtual government service center in the metaverse, interact with AI-driven service agents, submit digital documents, and attend virtual meetings with officials.
Virtual training and skill development: Governments can offer training programs in the metaverse’s 3D environment. For instance, Exponential Destiny is an organization that helps reskill youth from underserved communities by using immersive and experiential learning through VR and AR. A Stanford University and the Technical University of Denmark study reveals that this kind of immersive learning using VR increases learning effectiveness by 76%. The metaverse can be a powerful tool for governments as it makes learning more engaging and accessible.
Cultural and heritage preservation: The 3D internet can help preserve a country’s rich history through virtual museums or heritage sites that promote cultural awareness and tourism by allowing global visitors to explore landmarks digitally. Saudi Arabia introduced the ‘Virtual Black Stone’ experience for individuals to digitally touch Hajr Aswad, Makkah's Black Stone, aiming to provide a unique spiritual journey for those unable to attend the pilgrimage physically.
The metaverse offers many new business opportunities, from virtual real estate to digital art, for nations to capitalize on. In the MENA region, the metaverse has the potential to add approximately $38.1 billion to Saudi Arabia's GDP, $16.7 billion to the UAE's GDP, $22 billion to Egypt's GDP, $5 billion to Morocco's GDP, and $1.7 billion to Jordan's GDP annually by 2035 as reported by Deloitte.
Some potential metaverse-based industries in the MENA region include:
Virtual tourism: The MENA region, rich in history and culture, can recreate its prominent landmarks, museums, and historical sites in the metaverse. This digital recreation allows global users to visit and experience these places virtually, boosting the region's tourism sector. For instance, Visit Dubai utilized the 3D internet to showcase their country’s prominent landmarks to a global audience through 360-degree views.
Entertainment: Concerts, theaters, and cinemas have massive opportunities to use the metaverse to offer unique experiences without needing a physical venue. These virtual experiences will open new revenue streams for businesses in MENA as they enhance storytelling, drive audience engagement, and offer global reach. For instance, Ariana Grande and Travis Scott’s Fortnite concerts attracted millions of attendees globally and are a solid testament to the potential of the metaverse in boosting the entertainment industry.
Digital art: The region's artists can showcase and sell their artworks as physical or digital pieces in virtual galleries created in the metaverse. With the rise of NFTs (non-fungible tokens), digital art has seen significant growth, particularly in countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, providing the perfect avenue for artists to monetize their creations. Platforms like Google Arts & Culture, a digital division of Google, offer users an expansive repository of art and historical content, including images, videos, and interactive AR features. These platforms present a compelling opportunity for businesses in the MENA region to engage audiences globally and showcase museums and art installations.
Ensuring digital inclusion and accessibility within the 3D internet is crucial for two compelling reasons. Firstly, it enables universal participation, allowing people from diverse backgrounds to engage and collaborate regardless of physical abilities or socio-economic status. Secondly, it opens up economic opportunities, ensuring equitable access to the emerging economic potential of the metaverse and promoting a fair distribution of wealth and resources. Digital inclusion paves the way for a more participatory and just metaverse experience.
The metaverse must tackle several challenges to create an inclusive space. Only some people can access high-speed internet, VR headsets, or advanced computing devices required for a seamless 3D internet experience. This lack of accessibility could create a wide rift between those benefiting from metaverse-enabled services and those who cannot. Navigating and participating in the metaverse also requires digital literacy and specific skills to use digital tools effectively, as a lack thereof could lead to excluding a significant proportion of the population.
Here are some strategies and projects that governments and organizations could undertake to create an inclusive metaverse:
Affordable technology: Companies can develop low-cost devices and solutions tailored for the metaverse, ensuring that more people can afford to access it. Though hardware manufacturers have brought down the cost of these VR headsets over the years to around $400 to $1,200, they require further cost reductions and modifications to appeal to the wider audience.
Digital literacy: Launching programs to educate the masses about emerging tech will ensure industries can transition to digital spaces. Meta’s Immersive Learning Academy, launched in the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey, is an excellent example of an upskilling initiative. It helps individuals develop skills related to extended reality (XR) so that everyone can access the metaverse.
Universal design principles: Metaverse platforms and applications should be designed with accessibility in mind from the outset, ensuring they are usable by everyone, including those with disabilities. Prioritizing universal design principles can ensure that 3D internet platforms are broadly accessible by offering clear navigation, readable fonts, alternative content, flexible interaction, and cross-platform compatibility. Integration of keyboard and voice navigation, sensory considerations, and user testing further contribute to a welcoming and inclusive metaverse environment for users of all abilities.
Access to the internet: To experience the metaverse, access to high-speed internet is essential for a good customer experience - something that a significant portion of the world lacks. The 3D internet needs higher bandwidth than other internet-based games and applications to ensure a seamless and glitch-free experience. Governments must help improve accessibility to better internet connections to reduce the digital divide.
The 3D internet, a transformative convergence of the digital and physical realms, stands as a testament to the boundless possibilities of technology. The metaverse's potential is reshaping tourism, entertainment, and digital art industries. For MENA governments, it's a chance to revolutionize governance, drive economic diversification, and ensure digital accessibility through the 3D internet to build advanced digital nations. By addressing challenges collaboratively, we can create an inclusive, diverse, and innovative digital society, promising a prosperous digital future for the MENA region.
Are you an organization or government body looking to enhance operations and boost industries through digitalization? We can help you build, scale, and monetize your project in the metaverse. Get in touch with us!
Aug 24, 2023
LandVault is the largest metaverse builder with over 100 million square feet of virtual real estate, more than 120 full-time creators, and nearly 300 completed projects. We’ve been helping brands build and grow in gaming environments since 2017 and the metaverse since 2021.
LandVault’s platform-agnostic proprietary technology and creative powerhouse builds and delivers tailored, data-driven, and optimized business solutions and insights. We help clients launch, optimize, and monetize metaverse experiences.
LandVault’s mission is to accelerate the metaverse economy through technology with a vision of a fairer wealth distribution across the web.