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Sonntag, 29.01.2023
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Metaverse Seoul' functions as library, exhibit, consulting space for youth, tax inquiries and more

Public access to the Seoul Metropolitan Government has broadened to, literally, another dimension.

The city government on Monday launched the first phase of "Metaverse Seoul," an online platform where people can use public services offered by the authority. The areas of assistance are limited to administrative services, economic matters, tax and education for now. The government said it is the world's first local government-launched public metaverse service.

The government launched Metaverse Seoul to further the city's rising trends of contactless lifestyles, advanced ICT and younger generations from the digital age who are now an influential mainstream of society. The cyber platform purports to realize the new definitions of "freedom, companionship and connection" in a sense shared by a smart city based on virtual communications and interfaces that are increasingly popular across the world.

According to the Digital Policy Division under the city government's Digital Policy Bureau, Metaverse Seoul is a "creative space for communication, an undiscriminating space, and where reality meets cyberspace." Jang Dong-seon, a Korean scientist specializing in how the human brain works, recently said on the city government's Podcast channel that the cyber platform made the city become the "first mover" in the world's public service sector.

"Now, the initial phase to solidify its infrastructure has been done," Jang said on the show. "From now on, it should be followed by more advanced works, through which contents that can best realize a metaverse environment's unique strengths can be rolled out."

Metaverse Seoul came out with a smartphone app, available now in Google Play Store and Apple's App Store. To protect a user's private information from hackers, it requires all first-time users to confirm their personal identities and sign up for a membership.

The platform is also keen to prevent illicit activities from happening like sexual crimes involving users' avatars, language violence and information theft. To serve the purpose, the platform selected "Code of ethics for metaverse" introduced by Seoul Digital Foundation, an arm of the city government which supports their digital policies. The platform bans avatars from touching each other, filters out swearing automatically and allows users to report any irregularity found on the platform.

From Fintech to tourism hotspots

One of the functions Metaverse Seoul now offers to visitors is a stroll through diverse community spaces. The platform has replicated Seoul Square, a large green space in front of the city hall in central Seoul, where avatars can access a library of electronic books and also play with beach balls in a swimming pool in summer and catch dragonflies in autumn. Another hotspot inside the platform is the Office of Mayor Oh Se-hoon that copied the actual blueprint of the office. Around the clock, visitors to the mayor's office can submit a proposal to Oh or just say a casual "hello" to him.

There are also more business-oriented spaces. "Fintech Lab" allows visitors to advertise their fintech companies and check out other firms in the same industry. The interface further connects users to representatives of different firms for business exchanges, including those from abroad with whom communication is supported via a real-time translation service. "Enterprise Support Center" allows users from companies with various hardships to consult about management, start-up, legal issues and human resources. Those in needs of conference meet-ups can visit the platform where actions are supported via chatting, voice and video calls from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The city's top 10 tourism hotspots, including Cheong Wa Dae, N Tower, Lotte Tower, Seoul Forest and Han River, also offer glimpses to visitors outside of business hours.

Another pillar of the platform unveiled so far is a space for consultation over subjects including youth problems, complaints from daily life, public documents and taxation. Teenagers who are in need of mentoring but feel reluctant to attend in-person meetings can let their avatars handle the difficult part and still benefit from the virtual consultations. The platform also enables visitors to request and get seven different public documents, including a personal identification certificate, proof of health insurance fee payment and medical records. "Tax Square" is where users can inquire about various tax inquiries and calculate in advance how much they will be levied for different taxes.

Metaverse Seoul has been referred to by over 20 foreign institutes, including Havard Business School, Future Compute conference in 2022 by MIT Media Lab and TIME magazine, according to the city government. McKinsey & Company's "Value Creation in the Metaverse" report and other reports by Thoughtlab and Future Ready City also mentioned Seoul's latest cyberspace. So did governments and media broadcasters from Germany, Canada, Italy, Denmark, the U.K. and Singapore.

The city government this year plans to introduce the second phase of Metaverse Seoul. It will incorporate content about public safety, real estate, Dongdaemun Design Plaza in central Seoul, a support center for foreigners as well as new policies for young adults.

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Ko Dong-hwan

Quelle/Source: The Korea Times, 17.01.2023

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