The Middle East is Unlocking the Potential of Virtual Worlds

The metaverse’s potential is estimated to be around $15 billion by 2030 in the GCC region.

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  • In the metaverse, you can instantly summon collaborators from anywhere on the planet, regardless of their affiliation or location. Bring together engineers with different domain expertise. They can click into a meeting inside a virtual wind tunnel, observe simulations, and improve the design together. Down the road, this has massive implications for how, where, and when work is down—and where things are made.

    Now, engineers, architects, and designers build representations of real-world products and processes, such as a factory floor or an electric car, on the digital drawing board, which can be continuously updated in real time.

    The metaverse presents a world with a distinct opportunity — blending virtual reality and augmented reality that is accessible anywhere, anytime.

    From virtual spaces to shared experiences and spatial computing, there are several opportunities for enterprises and individuals.

    Businesses see immersive 3D environments as a new medium for collaboration and innovation.

    In 2022, Gartner estimated that by 2026, 25% of people would spend at least one hour a day in a metaverse for work, shopping, education, social media, or entertainment.

    As the excitement around the metaverse rises, the Middle East and North Africa region isn’t left behind.

    The metaverse’s potential to transform key sectors in the region is abundant. A Strategy& report noted that its potential contribution to GCC economies could be around $15 billion by 2030.

    In 2022, Dubai launched its metaverse strategy to turn the emirate into one of the world’s top 10 metaverse economies and position Dubai as a global hub for the metaverse community. The plan seeks to add $4 billion to the economy, resulting in 40,000 new jobs over the next five years. The UAE also established the Middle East’s first metaverse incubator to develop early-stage metaverse and Web3 applications.

    Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia, NEOM has a metaverse component used to develop the city by offering a platform for architects, engineers, designers, and others to collaborate and customize aspects for real estate projects.

    Strategy&’s report indicated growth in major industries, with travel and tourism reaping the greatest economic gain from the metaverse at an estimated $3.2 billion throughout the GCC by 2030. As Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 economic diversification expands the country’s travel and tourism, so will travelers who seek immersive experiences. For example, the Royal Commission for AlUla has created a metaverse experience to allow users to virtually visit and experience the Hegra World Heritage site, the Tomb of Lihyan.

    This is followed by financial services, which estimated that the metaverse could create $1.8 billion in value for the GCC’s banking and financial services sector. The report indicated that the UAE stands to gain from the metaverse. In addition, the Central Bank of the UAE plans to introduce digital currency within the next three years, which will further boost the growth of fintech and require blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies central to metaverse transactions.

    At the third spot, the metaverse is projected to add $1 billion to the real estate sector by 2030. With NEOM being a significant milestone in the global real estate market, the metaverse is suited to enhance the project and its experiences. In fact, NEOM’s technology and digital subsidiary, TONOMUS is working to create XVRS, a metaverse for people to visit the cognitive city and explore it virtually.

    As the facets of the metaverse continue to develop rapidly, the report offers many suggestions to seize the opportunity and formulate a metaverse strategy. These include considering the most compelling ways to bring your offerings to life, identifying relevant business case uses for pilot projects, building a robust digital infrastructure, and prioritizing cybersecurity.

    A Deloitte 2023 report also points to several recommendations for business executives who want to focus on their organization’s immediate business objectives.

    First, maximize potential by driving strategy, testing, learning, and applying new concepts. Secondly, adopt a “test and learn” approach from consumer-facing and enterprise functions, focus on demand and what motivates users, and commit to a “responsible metaverse.” Finally, understand how to manage a variety of complications and risks in the metaverse, such as privacy and security, accessibility, and sustainable energy use.

    At the NextTech Summit, key leaders and experts will discuss the latest insights and implications and explore opportunities in the metaverse.

    The summit, which will take place on 20 September at The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai, is presented by the Technology Innovation Institute; the strategic government partner is Digital Dubai, the strategic sponsor is G42, and the gold sponsor is Boston Consulting Group.


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