The Metaverse's Future and the Importance of Upskilling in High-Impact Sectors

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By Shekhar Sanyal

Metaverse is the latest tech innovation that both businesses and individuals are getting used to. People who remember the movie series “Matrix” would realise that it depicted a Metaverse. The metaverse is a digital universe where everybody lives, works and socialises through their digital avatar. This presents a very interesting situation. Geographical boundaries melt away and the ability for humans and organisations to connect and work unhindered is something phenomenal. For businesses, the ability to scale without massive investment is slowly becoming a reality. However, just like in the real world, it will have challenges.

Cyber security threats and potential fraud become even more pronounced when they use the Metaverse as a medium in businesses. With limited legal or regulatory oversight, the standard protection and safeguards that organisations and individuals enjoy in the real world are as of now missing in the Metaverse. This presents significant risks for businesses. Ransomware calls are now becoming common. However, with these risks comes huge opportunities as well, for businesses using the metaverse.

Also since the metaverse works through avatars, it is very easy for one to mask their true identity. A possible paedophile might masquerade as a 10-year-old schoolgirl befriending young boys of the same age without anyone being wiser. Recently, there were allegations of a woman being gang-raped in Metaverse using virtual reality. And with Extended Reality this threat could become very real.

India has an estimated 468 million employees in its workforce, with almost 90% of them working in the informal sector, according to the latest NCAER report. The Human Development Report (HDR) 2020 states that barely one in five Indians in the labour force are “skilled”. In addition, agriculture and the informal sector account for a large portion of India’s labour force, with approximately half of those employed earning less than Rs. 225 a day and classified as “working poor”. The report was released by the United Nation Development Programme and these numbers are a cause of concern for India, which is in need of a skilled workforce to drive its burgeoning economy.

The Skill India mission initiated by the central government will be significantly accelerated if skill providers are able to use the metaverse. This would allow the best instructors to work in life-like scenarios with even the most remotely placed learner. Breaking down geographical and economic barriers through the metaverse will go a long way in creating the skilled workforce that India needs.

But even before that stage, companies and organisations will have to undertake upskilling and training programmes for their internal and customer-facing teams. This will help make their offerings ready for the metaverse and also ensure that their teams are proficient in the rules of the new arena. Customer service and engagement teams will need to relook at user behaviour and remap communication touchpoints in the metaverse and how consumers start to expect information. Software engineers will need to revamp and redesign data collection systems totally differently – recruits with experience in large-scale system design, distributed computing, natural language processing (NLP), UI design and others will have an upper hand. With the advent of the metaverse, will come a whole bunch of new technology areas in which expertise will need to be developed – blockchain engineers, NFT strategists, ecosystem developers and so on. Gamification will happen at every stage – so game designers, UI/UX developers and AR/VR/XR experts will need to be part of teams and organisations that are looking to be not only metaverse-ready – but metaverse-first.

Metaverse, while an exciting concept with myriad possibilities, needs a lot of work in terms of setting up the right technology, mindset and skills to make it happen. Organisations not just in India but across the world need to invest in technology, hardware, skills and talent if they want to do business in the metaverse. Remote maintenance of complex machinery in healthcare and manufacturing industries will benefit from metaverse. Entertainment and shows of various kinds are already happening in the metaverse. Recently Punjabi pop singer Daler Mehndi hosted his show on the metaverse. He also set a record of sorts by being the first Indian to buy a piece of land in the metaverse. Not surprisingly, he has named his virtual property “Balle Balle Land”.

The quantum of economic impact of the metaverse is unpredictable. However it will suffice to say it’s going to be humongous, as will be the associated job creation and opportunities. Indian organisations need to recognize that consumers will indeed find it easier to consume services through the metaverse. Not being bound by geographies, consumers will demand the best in the world, both in terms of service as well as experience. So, it’s time to get versed with the metaverse.

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