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The metaverse is predicted to have the potential to help UK executives ‘move the needle’ on DE&I initiatives, according to research released today by EY. As adoption increases and business use cases solidify, bedding in DE&I best practices early on will help UK businesses seize this opportunity.
According to EY’s 2023 Metaverse Readiness Survey, adoption of the technology is growing. Nearly half (47%) of business leaders are already investing in or using the technology in some way, with 61% believing they cannot afford to be absent from it. When asked how they intend to apply it in a business setting, responses revealed that they’re to be predominantly people-based and focused on areas such as customer service.
The imperative for organisations is to build trusted customer experiences using the technology. However, the survey has prompted concern that DE&I initiatives are not currently a priority for business leaders as they build their capabilities, with thirty-nine per cent saying there is a risk that business interests will trump user rights such as accessibility, diversity and inclusion.
That said, there is optimism around the benefits that metaverse technologies could have in furthering DE&I initiatives, if managed carefully. As a result, nearly two-thirds (65%) of the surveyed executives say their companies recognise the DE&I implications and are actively looking at how to manage risks. As an example, 63% are actively supporting employees/users with physical conditions, like visual impairments, to ensure they can access and work in the metaverse. It is this proactivity that will help build trust in metaverse technologies, with two thirds (64%) believing it “offers an opportunity to transform our approach to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace”.
Laura Henchoz, Emerging Technology Markets Leader EY UKI said: "Trust in new technologies, especially where their applications are predominantly people-based, is hard-earned yet critical for their development. Whether intended for team collaboration or customer support, building experiences that are diverse, equitable and inclusive is central to creating trust in the technology and realising the benefits.
“The good news is that leaders don’t need to reinvent the wheel. They can build on existing learnings from AI and social media, not only to ensure ethical practices are followed but also to allow for DE&I initiatives to be progressed in new ways. In taking this proactive approach, we could be about to see many exciting applications from early movers.”
To help businesses gain insight into how DE&I practices can be built into the metaverse and its applications, EY Foundation, EY Metaverse Lab, Ofcom and the School of Digital Arts (SODA) at Manchester Metropolitan University are collaborating to understand the impact of the metaverse on social inclusion. Working with young people from low-income backgrounds in Greater Manchester, in tandem with the metaverse diaries of award-winning visual artist, Alina Akbar, a key outcome of the project will be the creation of principles and recommended actions for building a socially inclusive metaverse.