- Posted August 4, 2010 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Stories from Second Life
Government Information Service Provided in Second Life
If you want to find out government information about your area in the USA you can step right into Second Life and go to a site that offers just such a service. eGov Island was opened on May 5, 2009, a creation of a company called NIC, who, along with 3D developers Cranial Tap, created this very useful SL Island.
The first things you notice when you arrive on eGov Island are the flags representing each State in America. The formal but very attractive layout of the sim, with its beautiful landscaping and stylish buildings make it a pleasing place to visit in-world. I found the site extremely easy to use, as I gained information from links leading to the appropriate web pages containing all the government data on offer.
I contacted NIC and Nolan Jones, Director of eGovernment Innovation, kindly agreed to answer some questions for me. I asked Nolan why the island had been created and if it was a government initiative, he told me “NIC created eGov Island to demonstrate how Second Life could be used to efficiently deliver government information to citizens. This island was conceived as a proof-of-concept -- it was not developed specifically for any government agency, nor was it built on behalf of the US government.” I wanted to know if it was a brave move to us SL for such a purpose, Nolan answered “NIC is always exploring different technologies to assist our government partners with their mission of effectively communicating with and delivering services to citizens. Second Life is one of many new communication channels we have introduced to facilitate more effective interactions between government and constituents.”
As Second Life has had mixed revues in the past, including some negative stories regarding SL relationships and the virtual sex industry etc, I asked Nolan about the response of the media at the time eGov Island was opened, he said “On the contrary, the launch of eGov Island received very favorable news coverage and there was a lot of interest from both the media as well as government leaders across the United States.” Nolan continued “NIC has been actively monitoring advancements in virtual reality for a long time and has been actively using SL for several years. In fact, our CEO has long had a SL avatar and pushed for the development of eGov Island."
I wanted to know what the advantages are in using SL for communication purposes. Nolan told me “The site provides our government partners as well as the public the opportunity to see how SL might be used to enhance the services provided by the government. We view eGov Island as a pilot project that shows the potential of a virtual environment and will continue to evolve it in the future.”
I asked Nolan if the NIC use SL for conferencing and if this saved travelling time and cost. He replied “We have simulcast our annual stock holder meetings in Second Life. We have done this for the past two years. The stock holder conferences help demonstrate the potential for virtual reality. It was not intended specifically to save money or to reduce travel, but it did generate further interest in both NIC and Second Life, both of which were positive outcomes.” And has eGov Island received much interest? I asked, Nolan said “We have been quite pleased with the attention the island has received. It’s definitely a unique approach to providing government information and has resulted in both media coverage and inquiries from government leaders. In addition, the island has been prominently promoted by Linden, which has certainly been helpful.”
Talking about the presentation of eGov Island, I told Nolan I had been very impressed when I visited there and asked him to tell me more about its creation. He told me “Cranial Tap has been at the forefront of creating advanced technologies for Second Life. We have been very impressed with the viewers they have developed to present our web content. These viewers provide live feeds from the websites that NIC has developed and host for our government partners as well as other government websites.”
And what about the future in respect of using 3D worlds such as SL for communication? Nolan said “We plan to continue to use Second Life and potentially other virtual reality technologies to identify and promote new communication and service delivery opportunities for our government partners. NIC is committed to staying at the forefront of technology to ensure that our government partners — as well as the constituents they serve — benefit from the latest technology advancements. We believe that virtual world technologies will continue to evolve and become more integrated into the way people access data. World of Warcraft is an excellent example of how virtual worlds are becoming mainstream. We believe it’s important for government to be part of this evolving environment, because our objective is to expand where and how government information and services are offered.”
I asked Nolan if he would like to add anything, else in respect of the NIC’s role in Second Life, he added “NIC has been actively participating in virtual worlds for a number of years and we plan on staying involved in this rapidly evolving technology. We believe that future generations will be accessing information and services from government outside of traditional websites. We intend to remain the leader in using advanced technologies to provide government with the most advanced tools to perform its functions.”
I would like to thank NIC's Director of eGovernment Innovation Nolan Jones very much for taking the time in answering my questions and also many thanks to the President of Cranial Tap, Inc. Dave Levinson for all his help.
Cranial Tap, Inc, A Second Life Gold SP Developer
eGov Island - NIC – The People Behind the Government