The Seoul satellite city of Seongnam in South Korea announces plans for a virtual twin metaverse city with access to government services enabled via citizenship NFTs.
Seongnam is the 10th largest city in South Korea and home to almost 1 million residents. With their recently announced “Metaverse Special City Seongnam” project, they aim to create a virtual representation of the city.
The announcement comes as part of the South Korean push to be a metaverse and web3 hub of the present and future introduced by the national “Metaverse Industry Promotion Law” that aims to establish the nation as leaders in the metaverse by 2025.
The digital recreation is scheduled to be completed by mid-2023. It is as yet unclear how detailed and real-to-life the digital twin will be, and how much interconnectivity and interoperability there will be between different city metaverses for example.
The plans indicate the willingness of South Korea to push the boundaries of their economy, society and culture with ambitious web3 digital transformation despite the risks of being at the frontier. The country aims to be a leader in metaverse experimentation and implementation on a local, regional and national scale.
Part of this evolution of offering digital services and experiences is the plan to use non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to allow the city’s inhabitants to access municipal services, information and yet to be announced digital facilities.
It remains to be see how the local population will respond, with city officials hoping to entice all generations into the metaverse, and not just those who are already digital natives.
The citizenship NFTs are scheduled to be issued in April 2023. Services are planned to involve attendees using 3D avatars to interact in the planned 3D metaverse environments using augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
That and similar initiatives could drive mainstream adoption of the metaverse, web3 and NFTs to improve accessibility to government services and information at all levels, and it would not be a surprise to see other countries follow suit in what is becoming somewhat of a metaverse space-race.
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Saudi Arabia is celebrating its National Day in the metaverse, highlighting for the first time metaverse-washing as a potentially sticky subject and raising other privacy concerns.
For three days from September 22-24, interested users can log into “The First Saudi National Day Celebration” event on Decentraland.
Saudi Arabia has been an early adopter of the metaverse and web3 and is working on a central bank digital currency (CBDC) with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as part of a $64 billion investment into its digital transformation. The median age of the country is currently 33 years according to Statista.com, which could make for a population far more receptive to digital experiences.
Despite a controversial record on human rights, The Bold Group was able to launch the Saudi Arabian event on the Decentraland platform. The immersive experience promises “multiple layers of Saudi culture in an open-air museum, with each level displaying various representations of the beauty of Saudi Arabia” according to a press release.
Decentraland is the first blockchain enabled metaverse platform, and also the first metaverse decentralized autonomous organisation (DAO). While being the first has brought many challenges - the platform has been often criticized for its basic aesthetics, limited user experience and the inappropriate behaviour of its users, that brands and indeed nations are using it to reach new audiences is hard to ignore.
“Experience a meta-authentic celebration of Saudi heritage. Dress up in traditional wearable NFTs representing the Kingdom's various regions and more!” (Decentraland)
The event seeks to exhibit the countries history and culture, offering an open-air museum and traditional outfits as avatar-wearable NFTs and is a part of a collaboration with the King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives (Darah).
“Disruptive technologies like the metaverse are the future, and we at The Bold Group aim to be a key player in that evolution. The idea is to usher the Saudi National Day, a historically traditional celebration, into the new era of technology. It was inspired by the challenge of convening people across the Kingdom’s 13 different regions to celebrate Saudi Arabia in one virtual space.” (Ziad Aburjaily, Creative Technology Director at The Bold Group)
Proof of attendance NFTs, also known as POAPs are planned as limited edition collectibles, which raises questions about tracking and privacy, as anyone can see who holds a POAP thanks to web3’s open and transparent nature.
“We are activating the metaverse in an impactful way by paying tribute to Saudi National Day. Fusing our past with our future, we are honoring the storied history of the Kingdom, preserving our heritage and displaying it with pride for people to engage within the new digital realm” (Abeer Alessa, Co-Founder at The Bold Group)
See for yourself the opportunities and challenges that an unregulated metaverse platform brings to the metaverse educational space.
Ethereum fulfilled its urge to Merge in one of the most significant events in web3 history.
In one of the most, if not the most, anticipated events in web3 / crypto history, Ethereum (ETH) successfully completed its migration from the energy-intensive proof-of-work (PoW) consensus mechanism still used by Bitcoin (BTC), to the energy-efficient proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus mechanism.
Google even got in on the act by showing a countdown, in a nod of respect to the strides being made by Ethereum developers.
Ethereum is currently the second largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization ($160 billion at the time of writing) and is the original smart-contract platform that enabled non-fungible tokens (NFTs) as we know them today.
The Merge happened with barely a hitch, in a massive win for the Ethereum and greater web3 ecosystem, as it proved that monumental feats of web3 engineering could be deployed smoothly with the right planning and preparation for instant results - 99.95% reduced energy consumption and improved network performance.
While this takes care of one of the main criticisms of the network, many entities had cited Ethereum’s environmental footprint as a dealbreaker, the network upgrade is merely a building ‘block’ in a roadmap that will help the network scale. Currently the Ethereum network can process around 15-20 transactions a second (TPS), which while better than Bitcoin’s 7 TPS, lags far behind globally adopted networks such as VISA which processes 1,700 TPS on average.
However, the next upgrades to the ETH network aim to bring capacity to 100,000 TPS(!) and the different phases have been dubbed the Surge, the Verge, the Purge and the Spurge.
The Surge aims to lay the foundations for ‘sharding’ which distributes the network’s data usage over the network and will bring support for roll-ups, which is the bundling of transactions together for more efficient processing. Sharding is slated for some time in 2023.
“Sharding provides secure distribution of data storage requirements, enabling rollups to be even cheaper, and making nodes easier to operate.” (Ethereum.org)
This will have the combined effect of increasing network throughput while increasing decentralization and lowering transaction fees significantly. At the same time, it will improve the benefits of ‘layer 2’ networks which aim to take the processing responsibility from Ethereum, instead using it as a ‘layer 1’ settlement network and thus bestowing layer 2 networks with Ethereum’s battle-tested security.
“They enable layer 2 solutions to offer low transaction fees while leveraging the security of Ethereum.” (Ethereum.org)
The Verge aims to change the way data is structured in Ethereum from the current Merkle Trees, to Verkle Trees. Uh, come again? The too long didn’t read (TLDR) of this is that the size of the proofs needed for network nodes to validate transactions will reduce by up to 96%, improving network performance and reducing bandwidth requirements.
The Purge aims to prune historical data that is not absolutely necessary to run an Ethereum node, allowing for even smartphones to be able to act as nodes.
“The purge: trying to actually cut down the amount of space you have to have on your hard drive, trying to simplify the Ethereum protocol over time and not requiring nodes to store history” (Vitalik Buterin, Co-Founder of Ethereum)
The Splurge focuses on zero-knowledge proofs (ZKP) i.e. the ability to prove something is true, such as a secret or your identity, without revealing the secret or your personal details. This simplification of transactions promises massive increases to network throughput and privacy. There is also hope that ZKP technology will also make the network quantum-resistant, in other words, resistant to attacks by quantum computers which are computers that use quantum mechanics to perform complex calculations much faster than classical computers.
Ethereum’s new status as an environmentally friendly network should flip its and crypto’s previous reputation as energy intensive technologies not fit for sustainable real-world use. Its future roadmap promises to bring the low transaction costs coupled with the fast transaction speeds for all users necessary to bring the goal of web3, a decentralized internet, one step closer to reality.