CitiVerse – the potential of VR to build inclusive and sustainable cities

On 13 July 2023,  ITU together with Greece and Tanzania organized an event on “Exploring the metaverse: A New World of Possibilities for Cities and Communities” during the 2023 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). It was an exciting discussion about digitalization, smart cities, metaverse and CitiVerse.

The event explored the potential of the metaverse, a virtual world that can be harnessed by cities to accelerate their recovery from COVID-19 and support their journey in implementing the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. This session highlighted examples of how cities already use the metaverse to promote sustainable development, foster innovation and create new opportunities for their inhabitants.

Speakers explained how the rapid growth of cities on all continents represents a challenge for infrastructure development and the equitable delivery of local services. Meeting future needs and designing inclusive, resilient and sustainable cities require complex approaches which can be supported by digital technologies. Good examples exist already on all continents: Dodoma, Dubai, Singapore, and Tampere – just to mention a few.

It was also announced that a Digital Coalition on CitiVerse was to be launched with the aim of leveraging the power of metaverse for the good of all for the future development of inclusive, resilient and sustainable cities.

ITU develops international standards (recommendations) providing commonly agreed guidance for implementing the Internet of Things (IoT) and its applications, digital twins, and artificial intelligence to contribute to the development of smart cities and communities. Speakers underlined that regulations are necessary but not sufficient. They need to serve the process of effective value creation in the CitiVerse for the cities and their residents.

One of the previously proposed definitions might serve as a good starting point: A CitiVerse is a series of interconnected and distributed hybrid and virtual worlds representing, and synchronized with, their physical counterparts. It offers new (administrative, economic, social, policy-making, and cultural) virtual goods, services, capabilities to city and community actors such as citizens, represented as digital avatars.

It might be a gamechanger for local and regional governments to successfully and sustainably accomplish future city-development in several areas, such as:

  • predictive traffic management and sustainable mobility planning;
  • data-services related to weather, climate and extreme weather events;
  • management of energy flows in a city in conjunction with other sectors;
  • zero pollution actions, including air, water, soil pollution and waste management;
  • sustainable urban design, including built infrastructure and nature-based solutions.

The Cities Hub commends the relevant initiatives. It is convinced that strategically assembled, properly regulated and efficiently managed people-centered CitiVerses have the potential to address the challenges of rapid urbanization and contribute to the development of cities as agents of solutions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

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