Nearly three quarters of executives in the UAE believe the metaverse will have a positive impact on their organisations, another sign of the growing interest in the emerging digital space, Accenture said in a new report.
The metaverse – seen as the next iteration of the World Wide Web – will be a “continuum” of rapidly emerging capabilities, use cases and technologies, redefining experiences in the virtual world, the Dublin-based professional services company said.
A further 42 per cent believe it will be a breakthrough or transformational.
“The next generation of the internet is unfolding and will drive a new wave of digital transformation far greater than we’ve seen to date,” Paul Daugherty, group chief executive of technology and chief technology officer of Accenture, said in the report.
“Our vision of the metaverse as a continuum challenges prevailing, narrower views and highlights why organisations must act today, or find themselves operating in worlds designed by, and for, someone else.”
The metaverse is being touted as the next evolution of the internet and is defined as a digital space where participants, represented by three-dimensional avatars or digital representations, can move and interact in virtual worlds.
The global metaverse industry was valued at $47.69 billion in 2020 and is projected to hit $828.95bn in 2028, growing at a compound annual rate of 43.3 per cent, according to Emergen Research.
Metaverse activity in the UAE is growing. Dubai Municipality, at last month's World Government Summit, said it will create a digital twin city of the emirate in a virtual world, called One Human Reality. Sharjah, meanwhile, held its first non-fungible token art exhibition at House of Wisdom in March.
Gartner analyst Anushree Verma told The National the metaverse will evolve across three overlapping phases, emerging, advanced and mature, within the next 4 to 8 years.
The Accenture report also touched on the online behaviour of consumers, finding 70 per cent of those surveyed are spending substantially more time online.
The figure is higher in the UAE at 84 per cent, compared to levels seen before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020.
This rise is reflected in the shift in consumer behaviour in the Emirates. In recent studies, global payments company Visa said Covid-19 permanently changed their shopping habits, while online financial aggregator Policybazzar.ae said two thirds now prefer the use of contactless payment.
The holy month of Ramadan, in particular, is influencing online spending. Meta Platforms – the owner of the world’s biggest social media network, Facebook – said in a March report that UAE consumers are increasingly open to trying out new products from overseas.
From a broader perspective, consumers in the Middle East and North Africa region are projected to spend around $6.2bn on online purchases during Ramadan as their average time online has risen by 12 per cent, consultancy RedSeer said.
The Accenture study also identified a number of key trends that companies need to address now that we are at the doorstep of the metaverse.
With the metaverse and Web3 poised to reshape the internet, 97 per cent of UAE executives, and 95 per cent globally, believe future digital platforms need to offer unified experiences, enabling interoperability of customers’ data across different platforms and spaces.
In relation to this, 100 per cent of UAE executives said leading organisations will push the boundaries of the virtual world to make it more real. The global figure was at 92 per cent.
Security and authenticity, one of the major concerns on the metaverse, will also require attention. Around 98 per cent of those in the UAE and 96 per cent globally said their organisations are committed to authenticating the origin of their data and genuine use of artificial intelligence.
Also, 90 per cent of UAE executives and 94 per cent worldwide agree their organisation’s long-term success will depend on next-generation computing technologies they would leverage to solve problems that cannot be addressed by classical computing.
Mr Daugherty said the actions and choices executives make today – addressing issues like trust, sustainability, personal safety, privacy, responsible access, diversity and more – will set the stage for the future.
“As the line between people’s physical and digital lives further blurs, organisations have the opportunity and obligation now to build a responsible metaverse,” he said.
Accenture – which operates its own metaverse, the Nth floor – polled more than 4,600 business and technology leaders across 23 industries in 35 countries for the survey. This fiscal year, the company expects to hire 150,000 or more to work in the metaverse on their first day.