Companies that dived into social media early reaped the rewards and the same will apply to the metaverse, which is going to affect almost every department in every company, in the same way that e-commerce did
Besides the expected data regarding usage of platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok, the 2022 SA Social Media Landscape report issued by Ornico and World Wide Worx reveals that while 22-million local users are active on social media, more than 16% of the adult population has participated in the metaverse or virtual worlds. That is the same proportion of South Africans who are active on online dating sites.
The report confirms that more South Africans are exploring virtual worlds as part of the broader metaverse than much of the business community tends to believe. This migration towards the metaverse, or metagration as we call it in my office, shows that the opportunity not only for monetisation, but also for enhanced business engagement, is far greater than anticipated.
In addition, after a long period of silence on cryptocurrency regulation, Reserve Bank deputy governor Kuben Naidoo recently confirmed that the formation of a regulatory framework is in motion, with regulations expected to be implemented within the next 12 to 18 months. That development will see SA follow the likes of Russia, India, China, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, which have already defined their regulatory stances in this regard. It is a further step towards wider adoption.
Completing the hat-trick, SA’s first fully virtual school, IVA, opened recently and is accepting enrolments for the 2022/2023 academic year under the IEB & British GCSE curriculum. Taking teaching and learning to the next level, students and teachers in IVA’s 3D virtual school will be represented by avatars, interacting and behaving as if they were in a physical school. When the youth, who are the biggest component of the global population, start their education in the metaverse, they will be the first generation to not know life without the virtual world.
While gaming is the entry point to the metaverse, and education may seem obvious, it is already being leveraged by multiple industries outside that space. In South Korea, the city of Seoul is creating a digital replica of this metropole in the metaverse in which to house its municipal administration more smartly. The project combines digital twins, virtual reality and collaboration to improve city services as well as planning, administration and support for virtual tourism.
Back home, the Swiss-based World Data Lab has secured virtual Ubuntuland in Africarare, in which to develop its presence in the metaverse. The organisation plans to use the platform to improve the quality of life of Africans through its use of big data and predictive modelling, joining MTN, Saatchi Abel, Mann Made, Norman Catherine and Boity Thulo, which have already invested in this space.
I recently attended the fourth NFT.NYC conference in the US as a speaker on the future of work in the metaverse. More than 15,000 people attended the event, which focused on culture and community, and had over 1,500 speakers sharing insights into how non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and Web3 technology can shake up stagnant industries, directly connecting businesses and their consumers. Naturally, participation hasn’t reached this level in SA yet, but our lag behind US trends is not new and this signals a wave of change.
Businesses need to upskill their teams to start understanding the metaverse and start toying with how they can integrate this opportunity into their future plans. The metaverse is not the realm of IT geeks and tech fundis; it’s the new iteration of the internet, the new frontier for business, and ignoring it would be missing an opportunity as the potential for business growth is endless. It will affect almost every department in every company, in the same way that e-commerce did.
Furthermore, businesses would be prudent to draw on the youth for inspiration and exposure to these environments, to close the age gap. The learning curve here is far greater than it was with the social media revolution, or with the app generation movement, and yet again the youth find themselves remarkably comfortable mastering new worlds. The companies that dived into social media early reaped the rewards. The same will apply here though the chasm between dexterity and ignorance in the virtual space is far greater. And beware: the hype cycle is also progressing far more rapidly.
Now is the time for the business community to get educated and embrace this immense opportunity, because those that do so will be the leaders of tomorrow. Knowledge is power, and every organisation needs to sharpen their comprehension of this space so that we as a business community can move forward stronger. Don’t be late to the virtual party!