1st UN Survey on “Metaverse For All” which leads to international standards

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The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for many matters related to information and communication technologies (ICTs). It was established on 17 May 1865 as the International Telegraph Union, making it the oldest UN agency. Doreen Bogdan-Martin is the Secretary-General of ITU, the first woman to serve as its head.

The ITU’s main functions are to:

  • Promote the shared global use of the radio spectrum, which is a finite resource that is essential for wireless communications.
  • Facilitate international cooperation in assigning satellite orbits, which are also a finite resource that is essential for satellite communications.
  • Assist in developing and coordinating worldwide technical standards, which ensure that ICT networks and devices can interoperate seamlessly.
  • Work to improve telecommunication infrastructure in the developing world, to help bridge the digital divide.

The ITU has played a key role in the development of ICTs. It was responsible for the development of the first international telegraph and telephone conventions, and it has continued to play a leading role in the development of new technologies, such as the Internet and mobile communications.

The ITU’s work is essential for the continued development and growth of ICTs. It helps to ensure that ICTs are used in a fair and equitable manner, and it helps to promote the benefits of ICTs for all.

Here are some of the ITU’s key activities:

  • World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRCs) are held every three to four years to allocate the radio spectrum and satellite orbits.
  • ITU-T Recommendations are technical standards that ensure that ICT networks and devices can interoperate seamlessly.
  • ITU-D Development Programmes provide financial and technical assistance to developing countries to improve their telecommunication infrastructure.

The ITU is a global organization with over 193 member states. It also has a number of associate members, such as non-governmental organizations and private sector companies. The ITU’s headquarters are located in Geneva, Switzerland.

ITU’s work on the metaverse

The ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) is one of the three Sectors (branches) of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). It is responsible for coordinating standards for telecommunications and Information Communication Technology such as X.509 for cybersecurity, Y.3172 and Y.3173 for machine learning, and H.264/MPEG-4 AVC for video compression, between its Member States, Private Sector Members, and Academia Members.

Our working group on the metavese analyse the technical requirements of the metaverse to identify fundamental enabling technologies in areas from multimedia and network optimization to digital currencies, Internet of Things, digital twins, and environmental sustainability.

I am Vice Chairman of the Metaverses Working Group on Sustainability, Accessibility and Inclusion. We are working with global stakeholders to address the following issues of the metaverses, such as:

  • Environmental Sustainability related issues
  • Accessibility related issues
  • Social considerations
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Circular economy related issues

The Global Digital Divide

The global digital divide refers to the disparities in access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) between individuals, households, businesses, and geographic areas. These disparities can have significant consequences for individuals’ opportunities for education, employment, and overall well-being.

Here are some key facts and figures about the global digital divide:

🔶 2.6 bn people-33% global population are not connected to the Internet.

🔶 Gender gap in internet access: 17% in 2023-males: 82%; females: 64%

🔶 Socioeconomic gap in internet access: 28% in 2023(low-income households: 64%; high-income households: 92%)

🔶 Age gap: 20%(15-24 years old: 94%; 65+ years old: 74%)

🔶 Location gap: 15%(urban areas: 88%; rural areas: 73%)

🔶 Disability gap: 20%(people with disabilities: 56%; people without: 76%)

🔶 Mobile phones are playing an increasingly important role in bridging the digital divide. In developing countries, 92% of people have a mobile phone, compared to 66% who have a computer.

UN Metaverse For All Survey

As Vice-Chair of the ITU Metaverse Working Group on Sustainability, Accessibility, Inclusion, I feel strongly that whatever digital future we are planning to create, whether we use AI, metaverse or quantum technologies etc, it is important that we should ensure that we always have a people-centred approach and ensure no one left behind.

With the great support many amazing leaders at ITU (especially Prof Pilar Orero, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain; Nevine Tewfik Loutfi Deputy Director of International Relations Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), Egypt; Cristina Bueti Counsellor ITU Focus Group on metaverse), the first UN Survey on Metaverse For All are approved after many rounds of discussions and revisions.

The Metaverse Institute, a leading strategy consulting organization for the metaverse, is inviting everyone to participate in a UN ITU survey to help shape the future of the metaverse. The survey is open to everyone.

The survey takes 15 minutes to complete. It asks participants about their thoughts on the following topics:

  • Addressing the digital divide in the metaverse
  • Ensuring that the metaverse is accessible to all
  • Ensuring diversity, equity, and inclusion in the metaverse
  • How to use a combination of emerging technologies within the metaverse to create smart, sustainable and inclusive cities, which we call the “CitiVerse”

The results of the survey will be used to develop a report and will contribute to the work of the UN ITU Focus Group on Metaverse which offers a venue to start laying the groundwork for international standards that can help create an inclusive, accessible and sustainable metaverse for all.

Seizo Onoe, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, said:

“Our metaverse focus group welcomes your participation in its work to guide us towards an open, inclusive metaverse that benefits everyone, everywhere. Your responses to this survey will make a valuable contribution to our work to ensure that the metaverse supports sustainable development in every part of our highly diverse world.”

Join us in the survey

Please visit Survey on “Guidance on how to build a metaverse for all” (research.net).

Dr Christina Yan Zhang, CEO of The Metaverse institute said:

“The metaverse is in its early stages, but it has the potential to revolutionize how we interact with the world. One-third of the global population is offline, so how can we ensure that emerging technologies leave no one behind? We want to work with the global community to identify ways to ensure inclusivity, accessibility, and sustainability are fully embedded in our digital future for the benefit of all people and countries. By participating in this survey, you can help shape the future of the metaverse ecosystem, including AI, web3, and digital twins, developed through effective public-private-people-planet partnerships, and contribute to the UN Secretary General’s Global Digital Compact for an open, free, and secure digital future for all”.

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