It has been reported that quite a number of countries are proactively studying the development of metaverse, and the Seoul Metropolitan Government, in particular, took the lead in announcing last year that it would develop the first metaverse-based city and that it plans to establish, by the end of this year, a virtual platform covering municipal services in seven essential areas, namely economy, education, tourism, communication, urban development, administration and infrastructure. The platform is expected to be in full commissioning in 2026, by which time members of the public will just need to put on virtual reality (commonly known as VR) devices to make use of the platform for talking face to face with avatar public officials, visiting tourist attractions, and making bookings for public facilities, etc. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it has plans to proactively study and participate in the development of metaverse; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) whether it will take up the role of a spearhead and lead the local technology enterprises to seize as soon as possible the opportunities arising from participation in the development of metaverse; and
(3) whether the Government will, by following the practice of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, take the lead in participating in the development of metaverse; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
My consolidated reply to the questions raised by the Hon Chan Kin-por is as follows:
The Government has been closely monitoring the latest development and application of various technology domains, including metaverse. For the “Seoul Vision 2030” development blueprint released by Seoul, South Korea in November 2021, it is expected that 3.9 billion won (approximately HK$24 million) will be invested in the development of the “Metaverse Seoul Basic Plan”, which will provide the city with metaverse services in three phases. In the first phase, a virtual municipal government service platform of “Metaverse Seoul” will be built to provide virtual services in seven areas, namely economy, tourism, education, communication, city development, administration and infrastructure.
We noticed that metaverse is still at its early stage of development. The legal and ethical issues arising from it, such as the ownership and transfer of virtual assets, protection of personal data and privacy, dissemination of false information, regulatory issues arising from non-fungible token (NFT) transactions, related cyber security risks, as well as the overall impact on society, economy and politics, etc. are still being explored by various economies. We have also noticed that our country is also very concerned about the regulation of the activities and technologies that are relevant to metaverse, including virtual world, cryptocurrencies, personal privacy and cyber security, etc.
Currently, Hong Kong has already possessed excellent information and communication technology infrastructure and business environment, allowing local industries and research institutions to develop related virtual user experience and technologies, such as machine vision technology, sensor technology, cyber security technology, blockchain applications, etc., and implement the related applications, such as extending real scenes to digital entertainment in the virtual world through virtual reality and augmented reality technologies, and introducing virtual scenes in e-commerce to enhance user experience, etc.
We will continue to create a conducive environment for developing innovation and technology and doing business, and timely formulate relevant policies and measures to facilitate the industries to develop different innovative applications.