For what feels like an eternity in digital years, discussions about the metaverse have understandably centered around its entertainment applications. However, recent developments suggest that the public sector could in fact be a somewhat unexpected way for the metaverse to be quickly integrated into real life.
On October 27, Norway’s central register and tax authority reportedly began taking steps to establish a metaverse-based tax office in Decentraland, with assistance from Ernst & Young. The office will provide services to tech-native individuals, as well as possibly kick off an educational initiative on taxes related to NFTs and decentralized finance. The central register is also exploring additional services such as DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations), wallets, and smart contracts.
Norway is not the first nation to pioneer the use of Web3 technologies in public services. On October 11, a district court in the Chinese city of Xiamen held the country’s first-ever metaverse court session, in which participants’ avatars entered a digital courtroom. The virtual session resulted from a joint initiative between the court and Xiamen University and is aimed at increasing the judiciary’s efficiency during the ongoing pandemic.
Shortly afterwards, on October 13, Guangzhou’s Nansha District launched China’s first metaverse municipal public service hall. Local residents can enter the digital space using VR glasses and request a variety of basic government services. Chinese analysts have hailed these developments as successful implementations of China’s national (inward-facing) metaverse and digitization plan.
In contrast to the public sector’s optimism about the efficiency-raising prospects of the metaverse, the private sector has recently expressed its reservations. Meta’s subpar financial performance this year has prompted one of its prominent investors to openly call for a cap on its metaverse investment. Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s CEO of gaming, also described the current state of the metaverse as “a poorly built video game” at a tech conference on October 27.
Meanwhile, on October 21, the “highly anticipated” metaverse concert hosted by China’s leading digital collectibles platform, iBox, was savaged online. Audiences complained about poor quality graphics and motion stiffness, likening the experience to “paying hundreds of RMB to watch a few music videos in a sketchy single-player game.”
The momentum currently enjoyed by the metaverse in the public sector points to an alternative route for promoting Web3 concepts. Adapting metaverse technologies into day-to-day public services will expose and familiarize a large swath of the population with the metaverse. Government agencies are also incentivized to increase the utilization of Web3 technologies to reduce operating costs and increase efficiency in the long run.
While it is certainly too early to dismiss the entertainment potential of the metaverse, the general public might in fact first experience the metaverse when they need to visit the local tax office.