The metaverse is a concept that represents a virtual, shared and interconnected digital universe where people can interact and socialise in real-time. The concept has gained significant attention due to its potential to transform the way we interact, blurring the lines between the physical and virtual worlds. The importance and recognition of the metaverse has increased on a global scale and in response the UAE founded the Agile Nations Metaverse Regulation Working Group in April 2022. The group’s objective is to identify basic self-regulatory principles and standards for responsible use and operation in the metaverse. Currently, there is a significant absence of standardised regulations or a global code of conduct for operating within this emerging ecosystem.   

In October 2023, the UAE’s Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications Office released a whitepaper on the Responsible Metaverse Self-Governance Framework (the Whitepaper). The Whitepaper is based on extensive dialogues and consultation with institutions and private businesses such as the Mohammed bin Rashid School of Government and Dubai’s Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA). The aim of the Whitepaper is to highlight proposed principles of self-regulation and key uses of the metaverse across different fields. 

H.E. Omar Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy, and Remote Work Applications commissioned the report and noted that the metaverse offers real economic opportunities that affect important sectors of the UAE’s economy. He also emphasised that enhanced use of the metaverse would allow for the adoption of augmented and virtual reality and other tech initiatives in line with the UAE's strategic digital leadership plans. 

The Whitepaper emphasises the importance of international cooperation to establish self-regulatory principles that ensure the metaverse's transparent, safe, and ethical operation. The report proposes nine self-regulatory principles for the metaverse, including: 

  • Interoperability for Access - which allows users the ability to move their data, digital assets, and identities across platforms, regardless of potential technological or geographic challenges. 
  • Privacy by Design and Default - to ensure that users' rights and personal data are protected as the metaverse expands.
  • Sustainability by Design - which ensures that energy efficiency and environmental sustainability are taken into account from the beginning in the design of the metaverse world. 
  • Reciprocity and Transparency for Trust - to enhance trust by fostering a culture that encourages cooperation between users, the sharing of ideas, and the development of services designed with consideration for user experience and expectations. 

The metaverse's impact can be felt across myriad sectors and it is creating new economic opportunities through virtual real estate, digital assets, and virtual goods. While its potential is vast, there is a pressing need for universal operating standards. 

The metaverse is important not just because it is a new digital space but because it offers a new dimension of human interaction, creativity, and commerce. It has the potential to reshape how we connect in a digital world. The Whitepaper is a significant step in the development of the UAE’s strategic digital initiatives and it strengthens the nation’s competitive edge, further solidifying its position as a leading destination for artificial intelligence.