A man demonstrates how to participate in the metaverse

The Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) is urging regional thought leaders to start considering where the Caribbean fits into emerging metaverse technology.

The union hosted a webinar dubbed 'Traversing the Metaverse — A Caribbean Perspective', which examined the economic, social and cultural opportunities for different stakeholders, including governments and the private sector.

The metaverse may be described as a network of futuristic, 3D virtual worlds which allows social connection. Forbes reported last year that the metaverse is a US$1 trillion revenue opportunity.

More recently, Barbados announced its intention to establish an embassy in the metaverse to extend its global diplomatic reach and St Vincent and the Grenadines expressed plans to host carnival in the metaverse.

Secretary general at the CTU, Rodney Taylor, said “for some, the metaverse is the Internet reimagined, it's the next most exciting evolution. Others would say it's akin to the dot com bubble of the late 1990s and a nefarious plan to create a dubious underworld and so others are saying it is too early to even pronounce on it.”

He further disclosed that “at the CTU we think it is important to have a discussion on this trending topic and for there to be a regional perspective to bear on it and in so doing help to build public awareness of the technological developments that are shaping the so-called metaverse, the opportunities, challenges and risks and the skills that we need to focus on if we are to be at the forefront of this new technological wave.”

Ambassador of Barbados in the United Arab Emirates Gabriel Abed, who participated in the discussion, noted that there's still more work to be done in determining where the Caribbean fits into the metaverse.

“For the Caribbean audience, the jury is still out on whether the metaverse is going to truly be the future. From what we can see right now there's definitely a lot of economic activity and opportunities, it's clearly becoming something that we need to pay attention to and it's very important that the key principle of education is taken home by everyone… because this does present a new position for people in the region to find work, to become the next generation of business leaders, to build the next generation of platforms.”

But in order to effectively occupy its place in the metaverse, director of E-diplomacy and Cybersecurity Programmes at DiploFoundation, Vladimir Radunovic, noted that there are a few policy and regulatory issues which must be addressed speedily.

He said, “Governments should actually sit down now to address the challenges that can emerge once we run the technology.”

He highlighted controversy surrounding biotechnology, artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing, broadband connection and satellites, cryptocurrencies, geopolitical battles of where standards should be set up, servers and data sovereignty as well as labour and identity.

He stressed that the Internet as we know it is full of technological problems including disinformation and argued that the metaverse is being built on “shaky ground”.

“I'm by no means discouraging innovation in the metaverse, but we need to do it in a way that society and humanity can think in advance of what the social impact of new technologies could be so that we approach this innovation in a smart way,” Radunovic stated.

In the meantime, Taylor noted that “there are trillions of dollars to be made if we believe the predictions but there are also challenges as well. For one thing, are we too late in the game as a region? As we know technology moves very quickly, do we have the political will? The right regulatory frameworks? The right legislations? The right people? What about the threat of cyber security the breaches of data privacy. What skills do we need to be focusing on if we are to give our young people opportunities in this new frontier?”

At the same time, he conceded that successfully traversing the metaverse requires a collaborative approach from all the stakeholders involved.

“Certainly within the Caribbean context and given our political systems, Government policy is critical but it is not the only ingredient, there must also be a corresponding demand by citizens and significant private sector capacity to innovate and provide technological solutions within the local economy. One thing we must never do in the region is to relinquish all technological innovation to the so-called developed countries and leave the consumers of technological products and services residing in a distant cloud alone. We have too much regional talent for that. Yes, we must build global networks and collaborate but we must also take initiative and be craftsmen of our fate if I may borrow from the national anthem of Barbados,” Taylor continued.

TAYLOR... there are trillions ofdollars to be made if we believethe predictions but there arealso challenges as well
RADUNOVIC... governmentsshould actually sit down nowto address the challenges thatcan emerge once we run thetechnology
ABED... for the Caribbeanaudience the jury is still out onwhether the metaverse is goingto truly be the future
BY ANDREW LAIDLEY Senior business reporter laidleya@jamaicaobserver.com

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