Real estate investments in the metaverse are rising, paving a new path for communities to take shape in the virtual realm. Now, major cities and countries are taking note, legitimizing space and authenticating experiences for their citizens in the metaverse.

The city of Seongman, South Korea announced its plan to digitally recreate the city for the metaverse, which its 1 million citizens can access using NFT identification tokens. With an NFT citizenship authentication, virtual residents will have access to civil services, information, and events, the specifics of which have yet to be disclosed. The “Metaverse Special City Seongnam” is scheduled to launch in early 2023. Seoul, the South Korean capital, kicked off its own virtual launch during its 2022 New Year celebrations. With phases rolling out perpetually, Seoul plans to complete its city replica in the metaverse by 2026.

The Portuguese city of Madeira announced a government-endorsed “digital twin” project: Madalia World. The virtual city listed its first 500 plots of digital land in the metaverse on September 28th for 1 to 28 ETH. The project, ongoing, is in collaboration with the regional government, Exclusible, and augmented reality technology company Dimmersions.

Web3 technology company Metaverse Holdings announced in September that Dubai will become the first virtual city in their global metaverse rollout. With a Beta version scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year, the realm will replicate real-life events and experiences in digitally realized locations. From shopping malls to universities, “Dubai is establishing a case for itself as a cutting-edge virtual metropolis” with the “potential to be a vital conduit of communication and international collaboration in the future,” according to a Metaverse Holdings press release.

Under its new strategy, Dubai intends to support 40,000 new virtual jobs, adding $4 billion to the city’s GDP in the next five years. Major companies including Emirates, Damac Group and healthcare firm Thumbay have announced upcoming virtual roll-outs, digital environments and technology upgrades in the city as well.

In September, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced that the third headquarters for their Ministry of Economy will open its doors in the metaverse. The UAE Minister of Economy Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri gave a live tour of the establishment during the announcement, stating “this is not a proof of concept, this is our third address” according to Gulf News. The expansion indicates the ministry’s intention to expand its digital service operations for future UAE leadership. Citizens can visit the multi-story building from anywhere in the world to cast tickets for service, attend conferences and wander the premises.

Local Chinese authorities and cities are also spending millions in the metaverse, hoping to attract virtual business and talent. Public records indicate that at least 10 cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing, have issued development plans that include expansions into the metaverse for virtual land and worker-support in the realm. Cities including Wuhan and Guangzhou are offering subsidies of 2 to 200 million yuan for metaverse platforms, projects and research, as well as housing benefits. In mid-September, the province of Henan announced its plan to build a 30-billion-yuan metaverse industry alongside 10 companies and hundreds of smaller specialized organizations in the virtual realm by 2025.

Cities and governments around the world are breaking digital ground in the metaverse, looking for new ways to serve constituents and new avenues for jobs and economic growth. As these communities and services come to fruition, digital citizens will have new civic touchpoints in the metaverse.

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