From policy to pixels: What’s the deal with metaverse for governments?

By SoftServe

As some governments start putting in place national strategies around metaverse adoption, Genady Chybranov, Enterprise Solutions Lead, Asia-Pacific, at SoftServe makes the case for the public sector to push the boundaries of metaverse.

Public services can be rendered in the metaverse to make them more interactive and engaging, especially when services are hard to access or require physical presence, says Chybranov from SoftServe. Image: Canva. 

In 2023, Abu Dhabi unveiled a digital twin of a Court of Arbitration in the metaverse that may soon convene digital hearings to streamline proceedings.


Faced with the challenge of managing a high volume of in-person hearings, the virtual replica is an innovative solution that aims to improve the efficiency and accessibility in the administration of justice.


Moreover, the digital twin boasts virtual breakout rooms designed to be spaces for mediation and other supported activities around the legal proceedings. 


A digital twin is a virtual representation of real-world entities and processes. According to SoftServe, digital twins are primarily about prescribing and 3D visualisation, while metaverse primarily covers collaboration, leveraging on digital twins.


The court is only one of the many settings that demonstrate how the metaverse may revolutionise traditional systems and practices.


GovInsider speaks to Genady Chybranov, Enterprise Solutions Lead, Asia-Pacific, at SoftServe, a global software development company, to learn about the potential of the metaverse for broader government applications and how the public sector can get started with metaverse adoption.

Most promising use in urban planning and citizen engagement

By 2030, almost 700 cities would have deployed some metaverse infrastructure, according to ABI Research, a global technology intelligence firm.

The 2023 report by the firm suggested that city governments stand to benefit through enhanced citizen engagement, significant cost savings and meeting net-zero ambitions from smarter and more efficient urban infrastructure.

Genady Chybranov, Enterprise Solutions Lead, Asia-Pacific, at SoftServe, tells GovInsider that metaverse's most promising use cases in the public sector are in urban planning and citizen engagement. Image: SoftServe.


Firstly, a digital twin of a smart city can be deployed in the metaverse to get early feedback on urban planning, says Chybranov.


For example, cities such as Amsterdam, Stockholm and Zurich have digital twins of their urban areas to simulate new developments, let contractors test new designs digitally, and gather feedback, previously reported European Research Media Center.


Chybranov touts the industrial metaverse as “a very valuable tool to simulate various public events that can put a strain on city infrastructure and helps with planning new facilities.”


The industrial metaverse refers to the combination of individual technologies to create an immersive, 3D virtual environment.


Secondly, public services can be rendered in the metaverse to make them more interactive and engaging, especially when services are hard to access or require physical presence.


Lastly, metaverse technologies, such as augmented reality and virtual reality (VR), can be used to train public sector officials, as well as for building communities through virtual event planning and commerce facilitation.


GovInsider earlier covered how a public hospital in Singapore is using a virtual reality platform to train its healthcare professionals.

Expect wider adoption in a few years

The metaverse journey for governments is still at its early experimentation stages, says Chybranov. Wider adoption is expected in the next two to four years thanks to the rapid development of software, hardware and Internet infrastructure.


Infrastructure is one of the four priorities for the development of the metaverse, according to the World Government Summit in its 2023 report titled “Governing the Metaverse”. The other three include industry standards, laws and regulations around user and data protection, and policies and incentives.


Some governments already have in place national strategies to facilitate metaverse development. These include the Dubai Metaverse Strategy that aims to support 40,000 virtual jobs by 2030, and China’s Three-Year Action Plan for the Industrial Innovation and Development of the Metaverse (2023-2025) that focuses on a few industrial clusters for metaverse industry development.


Metaverse implementation can benefit various public sector players, ranging from legislators to citizen-facing public servants.


“Legislators can forge closer relationships with their constituents and communicate their ideas better, while government agencies can provide more efficient services through virtual channels,” says Chybranov.


“Virtual attractions benefit both residents and tourists, while industrial metaverse with its simulation capabilities can help builders and planners.” 

Remaining gaps to fill for metaverse adoption

Chybranov highlights technological complexity, slow user adoption and a lack of trust as some key obstacles to metaverse adoption for the public sector.

“Large metaverse projects can get very lengthy and costly. Therefore, we recommend starting with smaller experiments where results can be measured and evaluated within six to 10 months,” he says.

The easiest ways for governments to start using metaverse is through virtual events, tourist attractions and housing projects, he adds, as these can be done relatively quickly with a narrow scope and still be functional for the public.


SoftServe's Magic Box combined extended reality, digital twin tech, IoT and advanced UX design to help engineers and field technicians perform faster service management and equipment maintenance. Image: Screengrab from SoftServe's YouTube video.

The feedback and implementation experience from these projects can then provide valuable insights for future larger projects.


To tackle slow user adoption, it is important for governments to identify the main users of the metaverse project and design solutions with user experience in mind from the very start.


The government also plays a significant role in regulating data and privacy concerns around metaverse adoption.


Reliability, cybersecurity, and personal data protection are three key components that will impact trust in [metaverse] solutions,” says Chybranov.


“To make the metaverse work, we will need to ask a lot more of consumers in terms of data and privacy. This will begin as soon as they put on a VR headset and enter the metaverse.


“These headsets can capture and process massive amounts of biometric data, such as iris scans, pupil dilation, heart rate and voice analysis,” an article on the World Economic Forum explained.