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NASCIO Primer Guides Adoption of Metaverse Technology

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers has released a resource offering state governments guidance on metaverse technologies, including potential applications for public-sector use.

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A new resource from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) offers guidance to state officials regarding metaverse technologies.

The metaverse — often defined as an immersive, interactive digital environment that typically mimics the real world — is increasingly finding its way into more technology conversations. And while its role in the public sector is still up for some debate, state and local governments should be aware of the opportunities and potential risks.

The newly released primer, titled Navigating the Metaverse: Potential Applications and Implications for State Government, breaks down use cases for how states are using metaverse-adjacent technologies like virtual and augmented reality and explores possible applications for government use of the metaverse.

“One thing is certain: States should be thinking about providing services in a new way made possible by the metaverse and its technologies — not re-creating the government as it is, in a virtual world,” the paper states.

Virtual and augmented reality technology is already being used in some states, according to the guide. The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has implemented a pilot program to improve communications between children and parents who are incarcerated, while the Indiana Department of Child Services has adopted VR to show applicants job-specific simulations.

The metaverse, however, extends beyond the virtual reality technology that typically enables interaction with the 3D virtual spaces of the metaverse. The paper also notes these virtual environments can be accessed through a laptop or smartphone. Other technologies that play a role include augmented reality, Internet of Things, blockchain, cryptocurrency and connectivity technologies.

The paper states that federal government agencies like the U.S. Army, U.S. Space Force and NASA are currently planning metaverse projects to enhance training and collaboration efforts.

At the state level, the paper proposes that states could use it for similar purposes like training simulations, in addition to using it to improve economic development or tourism. Universities, meanwhile, could create virtual learning environments that mirror an in-person environment.

As with any emerging technology, state officials will have to strike a balance between the possible rewards and the risks, the authors note. State agencies should first determine business cases and create a detailed metaverse road map to identify how the technology will be used. This process should include convening stakeholders; considering security, privacy and safety; addressing bias and discrimination; and exploring accessibility limitations. Finally, legal counsel can help states navigate laws that apply to these technologies, the document states.

“Like AI, the metaverse will pose problems for state IT agencies facing workforce constraints as well, requiring a higher reliance on vendor partners,” the paper states, theorizing that more companies will offer metaverse as a service in the future.