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MDE#13 Regulating the Metaverse
The domino effect ♠
This new edition comes with a delay. Ah! My recent move to Paris has impacted me more than I thought! I needed time to take care of myself before I could give to others. My lesson in these recent times.
⏳ 6 min read
In this MDE edition, I’ll summarize a debate that happened at AWE EU 2023 (Vienna) recently. The debate pointed out the current state of regulating the metaverse.
In this newsletter, I refer to the metaverse as a vision for the next wave of computing that is ubiquitous, seamless, and immersive—making use of AR and VR technologies.
The panel included representatives from the European Commission, Metaverse EU, the XR Association, Consulum, Meta, and Qualcomm. It discussed how governments are approaching the metaverse and how metaverse policy is being addressed.
Understanding the value of the metaverse
The metaverse concept is relatively new but rapidly gaining traction in the public sector. Governments are keen to avoid repeating the mistakes of underestimating tech’s power, such as the underestimation of the internet's potential back in the 1990s. They're now looking to position their countries to take advantage of the metaverse and protect their citizens.
Understanding the value of the metaverse is the first step to get involved. This seems obvious. However, getting to understand what it truly entails should be a top priority—beyond the hype, beyond the mere fact that it looks cool and that we don’t want to be left behind.
In the words of Isabella Williamson from Consulum: “I've seen time and time again in my area of work, of governments going in and saying: I want to do this because it looks cool or everyone else is doing it, but they haven't actually asked themselves, why do I need to? What's the challenge I'm going to address? So first of all, they need to really have that discovery phase with a dedicated team, a working group that is focused on metaverse and XR technologies.“
Beyond understanding the value of the metaverse; another critical part for any government is to put into place a strategic vision for the metaverse.
Some countries like Finland, the UAE, China, and South Korea are being very proactive, creating strategies to become leading metaverse economies.
In Europe, the European Commission is putting in place several initiatives to foster the metaverse looking both at industry and citizens. This ranges from projects assessing the impact of the metaverse on health to public and government use.
And guess what? The U.S. is lagging behind. They pioneer metaverse technology but are left behind by their lawmakers… In the words of Joan O’Hara from the XR Association: “What we found was the U.S. is the outlier in that we [the U.S.] have not come up with a vision for how immersive technology will play a role in our communities.”
An interoperable ecosystem for all
From an industry perspective, the metaverse represents a new type of industrialization. This will imply the development of novel skillsets in the years to come that policymakers should be aware of. That’s why cooperation between industry and policymakers is essential.
Another key aspect is the need for an interoperable metaverse that is open to all and includes everybody—that can access the tech, of course—beyond looking at the individual use cases that the metaverse brings forward.
Cooperation between industry leaders should be the top priority to bring about an interoperable metaverse.
In the words of Juliana Koza (Qualcomm): “We should really have the broader view and try to see how we can cooperate together, bringing everyone on the table to discuss how we can really have the real metaverse in the next years as a kind of reality. So it becomes a normal part of everyone's life.”
“Governments as enablers”
The complexity of the metaverse requires multiple technologies, standards, and companies working together. By putting our focus on the complexity of the metaverse, we will create a fragmented approach. In the end, this will not help us to create common ground between the government and industry players.
Instead, we should look at the metaverse with a holistic approach, like an orchestra that is interdependent and interconnected.
Regulating one area of the metaverse will affect the whole ensemble, eventually putting restrictions on fulfilling the vision. That’s why looking at policymaking in a holistic way is essential. The domino effect is at play.
That’s why focusing on the experience as a whole is one approach that may facilitate regulating the space as long as data security, privacy, ownership, and some other parameters with a direct impact on citizens and institutions are addressed.
In the end, governments are the enablers that will facilitate the success—or failure—of the metaverse. As pointed out by Isabella Williamson (Consulum): “Governments are the facilitators, the enablers, and to really drive it forward, they need to work with industry experts to make it a possibility.”
The global metaverse readiness
Let’s now look at the global metaverse readiness across a few countries that were discussed in the panel. In the United Kingdom, the government is actively engaging through initiatives like the Digital Catapult network, which synergizes the efforts of government officials, investors, and tech companies to maximize the potential of emerging technologies. Such collaborative efforts are not only propelling innovation but also ensuring that developments are aligned with societal benefits and concerns.
In contrast, the United States appears to be lagging, with a call for lawmakers to recognize the imperative of having a stake in the metaverse’s evolution. The necessity for the U.S. to catch up and collaborate internationally is underscored by the progress seen in other regions, where community involvement and industry-government partnerships are flourishing.
In the European Union, the European Commission sets an example with its citizen panels, emphasizing the inclusion of community voices in policymaking. This ensures that the public’s expectations and concerns shape the trajectory of metaverse integration into society.
In Asia, China adopts a more directive approach, setting clear guidelines for the industry’s progression. South Korea, with its comprehensive New Deal policy and metaverse-related initiatives such as technology labs, academies for upskilling, and investment funds, all converging to make Seoul a potential hotbed for metaverse development. The country exemplifies the economic potential when government initiatives align with industry expertise.
In conclusion, the global policy landscape for the metaverse is as diverse as the technology itself. The path forward seems clear: collaborative efforts between government and industry, public engagement, and strategic investment will be pivotal in shaping the metaverse's integration into the fabric of society in the years to come.
NEW OF THE PAST MONTH(S): Travels here and there, Covid, another moving within the city of love, and well… mostly taking care of me (and paperwork, haha).
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Disclaimer: The views expressed here are my own and do not represent the views or opinions of my current or any past employer.