Connecting state and local government leaders
Even if early supporters are backing away from the immersive platform, states should keep thinking about new ways to provide services.
Even as the metaverse appears to be losing its shine for fans at Meta, Microsoft, Disney and Twitter, states should keep thinking about what’s next for technology-enabled government.
A new report on the metaverse and extended reality from the National Association of State CIOs looks at potential applications and offers some cautions that should be applied to use of any emerging technology.
Already, nascent, experiential technologies like augmented and virtual reality have proved their worth for training when real-life exercises are impractical or too expensive.
- Alabama’s workforce development agency partnered with Lockheed Martin to test if VR goggles and training modules could help prepare students for aerospace jobs in the state.
- Researchers from Ohio State University are working with emergency responders to evaluate the potential of virtual reality headsets for training for mass casualty events.
- To better understand factors that might affect arrest-related fatalities, a 2021 use-of-force exercise conducted by the Department of Homeland Security used VR to simulate encounters between residents and law enforcement officers.
- Medical researchers in Maryland are expanding doctors’ diagnostic capabilities with virtual and augmented reality technologies, in a bid to make specialized telehealth more accessible to rural patients.
Extended reality technologies can also be used for economic development and tourism, giving potential investors and visitors an immersive tour of a state, the NASCIO report suggested. It will likely continue to be explored for online public education.
Far less developed, but much more complex than virtual reality, the metaverse’s avatar-populated society presents many of the same regulatory challenges state governments already face. In the metaverse, however, the technology is running ahead of policies, making any venture fraught with uncertainty.
Before any state agency wades into the metaverse—or any emerging technology—there must be a business use case for the tech, NASCIO said. Agencies should work with stakeholders across departments to create a roadmap that shows how the technology will be part of overall IT architecture and governance.
Security should be top of mind, especially for technologies like the metaverse that allow users to modify their identities. It’s critical that states “get identity and access management right for users to ensure bad actors aren’t impersonating real or fake people,” the report said.
States must also set up a legal and security framework that allows the use of cryptocurrency as payments for virtual goods and services. Additionally, they must review laws and regulations covering copyright, intellectual property, contracts, torts, defamation and taxes, the report said. Users should be protected from harassment, racial and gender bias and discrimination, and platforms and applications should not present accessibility challenges to users with physical and mental disabilities.
Any emerging tech project will also need skilled and knowledgeable staff to develop, implement and manage it, NASCIO said.
Despite major challenges with the metaverse and other emerging technologies, “states should be thinking about providing services in a new way … not recreating the government as it is, in a virtual world,” the report concluded. “Nobody wants to stand in line in real life or in a virtual world. Instead, we should be exploring how to reinvent the citizen experience in the most user-centric and forward-thinking ways with this new technology on the horizon.”