Led with the slogan “The future belongs to those who design it,” Forum Metaverse hosted more than 2000 attendees from the congress, ministries, and the presidency. Guests could experience the metaverse through various demonstrations upon arrival, then moved on to discussion sessions to debate the opportunities and risks.
President Erdoğan opened the event emphasizing the digital transformation. Referring to the worldwide movement, President Erdoğan declared 2022 as the ‘digital mobilization year’ and said that Turkey would produce their own digitalization to prevent youth from attaching to foreign cultures. He said:
“We won’t know peace without producing our authentic technologies, software and content. We can’t look to the future with confidence if the future of our nation’s minds and hearts grow dependent on channels of other nations.”
Regardless of the ethnocentricity of his motivation, President Erdoğan made it clear that Turkey would be investing heavily in the metaverse.
Education is the first step
Following up on President Erdoğan’s enthusiasm, Turkey’s Minister of Education Mahmut Özer announced that the education sphere would be the first step to implementing metaverse.
According to Özer, several fields that require a hands-on technical training process were selected as the pilot programs to begin metaverse training. While necessary experiences are being developed, the teachers will be educated on metaverse simultaneously. After these programs succeed, other fields in education will be considered for metaverse implications.
Özer said that many organizations lacked a proper trainer to raise the apprentices. Implementation of metaverse will help combat this problem by bringing apprentices together from all around Turkey before the presence of a verified trainer. This way, both the number of apprentices and the quality of their training will increase. Özer stated:
“We aim at 1 million apprentices by the end of 2022. Many organizations do not have a trainer. All related personnel is trying to get their training. Hopefully, with this project, the number of master apprentices will exceed 400 by May.”
Özer noted that the annual budget devoted to these programs is 282 million lira, about $19 million. He finished by saying that in addition to creating metaverses for technical training, a part of this budget will also be spent on raising developers who can create ‘authentic metaverse content’ as President Erdoğan deemed.
Negative public reaction signals the need for education
Notations of authenticity and xenophobia in President Erdoğan’s words indicate preparation for the upcoming 2023 national elections. Considering the high numbers of crypto-adoption in Turkey and crypto’s effect on politics, it’s not surprising for President Erdoğan to utilize hype for political publicity.
However, a day after Minister Özer’s announcement, #NOMetaverseinEducation (#EğitimdeMetaverseHAYIR) became a top Twitter trend in Turkey. Some tweets expressed concerns about children’s exposure to radiation, while most expressed simply being afraid of the unfamiliar and ‘uncontrollable.’