At the Dubai Metaverse Assembly event last month, top government officials from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) shared their ambitions for the country to become a metaverse pioneer and leader, revealing ongoing initiatives and aspirations moving forward.
The Dubai Metaverse Assembly, organized by economic development agency the Dubai Future Foundation, was held on September 28 and 29, 2022 and welcomed more than 500 delegates including government ministers, business leaders, global corporations, key decision makers and the metaverse community to connect and share knowledge on the latest trends in the metaverse industry.
During the event, His Excellency (HE) Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, shared details of the new Dubai Metaverse Strategy, revealing for the first time that the five pillars underpinning the development plan will be tourism, real estate, education, retail and government services.
“Dubai is serious about discovering the potential of the metaverse and sowing the seeds to ensure we reap the economic rewards in the future,”
HE Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, said.
“Our population in the metaverse is already the same size as those in India and China, despite our smaller geographic size. This shows that we continue to punch above our weight as a nation. And as we aim to become a top ten metaverse economy, we will create a “digital twin” of Dubai to simulate our plans for tourism, real estate, education, retail and government services in the virtual world.”
HE Omar bin Sultan Al Olama added that the country’s economic success will now be measured using so-called “gross metaverse product (GMP)” instead of gross domestic product (GDP).
A task force will also be launched to explore opportunities for exporting the Emirati culture to the rest of the world using the metaverse, he said.
HE Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri, Minister of Economy, formally announced the launch of the ministry’s “metaverse office” in the virtual world, a move which attests the government’s commitment to the metaverse and the UAE’s aspiration to become a global leader in the digital economy.
“We are setting up a third office – this time in the metaverse – to complement our physical locations in Abu Dhabi and Dubai,” HE Abdulla bin Touq, said.
“The metaverse is a new economic equalizer and under the vision of our leaders, we will continue to pave the way for a new era of opportunities that accelerate our knowledge-driven economy.”
HE Sultan bin Sulayem, Chairman, Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation, and Group Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, DP World, said the Emirati multinational logistics company has already started exploring how it could deploy the metaverse across its services, including simulations of warehousing and terminal operations, container and vessel repair inspections, safety training, and other commercial uses. He stressed that Web 3.0 technologies have the potential to increase transparency across supply chains and improve efficiencies.
The Dubai Metaverse Strategy is an economic development plan unveiled in July 2022. The plan aims to turn the city into one of the world’s top metaverse economies and global hubs, support its ambition to create more than 40,000 virtual jobs by 2030, add US$4 billion to Dubai’s economic within the next five years, and back the UAE government’s vision of increasing the number of blockchain companies by five times the present number.
This will be done by developing global standards in building safe and secure platforms for users, building up the metaverse infrastructure, and creating conducive regulations to accelerate the adoption of these technologies.
Other aspirations include fostering innovation and talent, enhancing the metaverse’s economic contributions, and investing in future capabilities.
The plan will leverage technologies including real-time data, machine learning (ML), the Internet-of-Things (IoT), blockchain, augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR), as well as digital twins.
Metaverse initiatives proliferate in the UAE
In the UAE, launch announcements and project reveals involving metaverse initiatives have multiplied over the past couple of days.
Just earlier this week, the government of Sharjah launched the Virtual Transaction Centre — Metaverse, a digital platform that connects users to customer service agents who can process documents.
The platform features audio and video information about government services provided by Sharjah’s Department of Town Planning and Survey, and includes a virtual map of Sharjah as well as a news feed.
This announcement was made just days after the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) launched the DEWAVerse platform, becoming the first local government organization to launch on the metaverse. The release was made during Dewa’s Digital Transformation Steering Committee Meeting and included presentations of ongoing metaverse projects such as:
- The Customer Service Centre, which enables customers to communicate with agents to answer their inquiries and complete transactions in the virtual world;
- The Dewa Workplace, which enables users to move around Dewa buildings and hold meetings in the virtual world;
- The Dewa Future Lab, which enables users to hold brainstorming sessions, discuss challenges and develop the best solutions using innovation tools in the virtual world;
- First Aid and Fire Safety, which introduces first aid and fire safety procedures virtually;
- MetaDrone, which gathers information on solar panels, fix them, and generate reports using VR; and
- Dewa Onboarding, which allows new employees to learn about Dewa vision and mission virtually.
At Gitex, an annual enterprise technology and global digital transformation event that took place this week in Dubai, Abdul Mateen Mavad, Director, Infosys Technologies UAE, showcased a prototype of a virtual replica of the Etisalat store at the Dubai Mall.
Users access the virtual store using either VR glasses or touchpads, where they can browse, view products and interact with other customers.
“The initiative is to create a metaverse for Etisalat,” he said. “We have taken a scenario of Dubai Mall Etisalat showroom and we have replicated that into our system. The design is the exact look alike of the Dubai Mall showroom. Once you tour the store you will see the products and services showcased and people can see the details of each product.”
This year’s Gitex event also saw the launch of a virtual location of the Commercial Bank International (CBI), a corporate and retail bank headquartered in Dubai, on Decentraland. The move made CBI the first bank in the UAE to have a presence in the metaverse, it said.