This new strategy presented by the European Commission comes in the context of digitalisation and its influence on the EU economy beyond 2030. When compared to Web 3.0, which focuses on decentralisation, openness, and user empowerment, Web 4.0 will foster improved interactions between human beings and machines while supporting more integration between digital and real objects and environments.
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According to the Commission, the global virtual world market size is estimated to grow from EUR 27 billion in 2022 to over EUR 800 billion by 2030. On the subject of virtual worlds, the Commission believes that they can impact the way people coexist, which is why it’s important to address both the emerging opportunities as well as the new risks involved associated with their emergence. This new strategy aims to ensure that the upcoming Web 4.0 and virtual worlds would both reflect EU values and principles.
The strategy’s main highlights
The strategy was designed to harmonise with the 2030 objectives of the Digital Decade policy programme and three of its primary pillars of digitalisation, namely skills, business, and public services. The fourth pillar refers to infrastructures and is addressed by the Commission’s connectivity package.
The first pillar will focus on empowering people and supporting skills to foster access to trustworthy information and build a talent pool of virtual world specialists. Specifically, the Commission plans to introduce the guiding principles for virtual worlds by the end of 2023, as well as develop guidance for the general public through a ‘Citizen toolbox’ by the first quarter of 2024.
As far as business is concerned, the current lack of an EU ecosystem to link the different players of the value chain of virtual worlds and Web 4.0 has created the need to support a European Web 4.0 industrial ecosystem that would scale up excellence and address fragmentation. To this end, the Commission has proposed a candidate Partnership on Virtual Worlds under Horizon Europe. This project is likely to start in 2025, and it would focus on the research and development of an industrial and technological roadmap for virtual worlds.
The Commission is also launching two new public flagships, namely CitiVerse and the European Virtual Human Twin. The first will focus on creating an immersive urban environment that can be used for city planning and management, while the second will replicate the human body to support clinical decisions and personal treatment.
Another important goal is to support the creation of open and interoperable virtual worlds while ensuring that they would not be dominated by a few big entities. To this end, the Commission will actively work with internet governance stakeholders from all over the world and will promote Web 4.0 standards that echo the EU’s values and principles.