Are virtual worlds a tool for better government?

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World_2As virtual worlds gain increasing popularity, what should policy makers do with them (beyond, of course, visiting the Doing Business island)?

A report by IBM, Government in 3D: How Public Leaders Can Draw on Virtual Worlds attempts to provide some answers. The authors identify several areas where virtual worlds could benefit policy makers: from reaching out to citizens to emergency training, from recruitment to fostering tourism and economic development.

The report is full of interesting (if, admittedly, still isolated) examples: from the first US congressional hearing in Second Life to five tons of carbon emissions saved by teleporting a speaker to the UNCCC meeting in Bali (always in Second Life); from "beta testing" the impact of policies through games such as a World Without Oil to SecondHealth, a 3D tool to educate the British public about a new health plan and its implications for citizens.

And here's what the report has to say about economic development:

[V]irtual worlds will likely prove to be an excellent, low-cost showcase for an area or a region pursuing economic development activities. One can well imagine that sites can be tailored to take prospective business owners and developers on a virtual tour of a region... One could even... show the virtual model of a city in a way that would allow corporate executives of a potentially expanding firm to tour the city after their plant has been built.

So what do you reckon, is this utopia or is development in 3D just around the corner?

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