How can China’s Digital Silk Road facilitate metaverse education?


The “Digital Silk Road” (DSR) was introduced in 2015 by an official Chinese government white paper, as a component of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The DSR represents China’s strategy for enhancing information exchanges and digital collaboration with emerging nations. DSR support is allocated to enhance beneficial countries’ networked communications, AI capabilities, cloud computing, e-commerce, mobile financial services (MFS), technological surveillance, smart cities, and high-tech sectors, among others. Around 40 countries, including a majority of the world’s developing nations, have already signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) in the DSR. The expanding reach of the DSR offers a chance to influence the technological initiatives of multiple nations, including the advancement of innovative educational systems like metaverse education.

A metaverse framework for education offers students the opportunity to go beyond reading and experience the facts and details hands-on. Metaverse technologies hold immense promise in revolutionising educational settings, lifting skilled trades, and opening up novel avenues for lifelong learning. The metaverse has the potential to transform the world into a virtual global school, however, there are significant challenges to adopting metaverse education, such as a lack of technology architecture and network infrastructure, and a dearth of learning management systems. Hence the DSR can make a significant contribution to advancing and broadening metaverse education by improving digital infrastructure, promoting technical cooperation, and enabling access to proficient educational materials.

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The DSR prioritises the expansion of broadband networks, including optic fibre and 5G technologies, to accommodate the high velocity of data transfer needed for metaverse education. Furthermore, the allocation of resources towards cloud infrastructure facilitates the efficient storage and analysis of substantial volumes of data, which are crucial for creating engaging educational experiences within the metaverse. By committing to technical surveillance, Chinese technology firms can facilitate the broad accessibility of cost-effective virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) devices, hence expanding access to these technologies to prospective students and educational institutions.

The DSR’s growth may provide a variety of educational content from other cultures and places to the metaverse, enhancing inclusivity and depth in the learning process. Students may get insights into many cultures via immersive educational programs provided by metaverse education. DSR can help with more topics and customise learning methods for diverse learning styles and preferences via metaverse education. Through professional growth and learning, the DSR may help students employ metaverse technology in real-world learning. The primary aim of DSR-supported metaverse education is to minimise the digital divide by introducing modern digital technology to underprivileged regions. This might ensure that students from all socioeconomic backgrounds have access to excellent education, which is in line with Sustainable Development Goal 4 (Quality Education).

Through spearheading the advancement of digital infrastructure worldwide, DSR provides China with a wide range of advantages, including economic growth, technical dominance, educational influences, and cultural interchange. China intends to benefit strategically, economically, geopolitically, and industrially from the DSR effort, recipient nations also have to deal with some issues. For example, problems with dependence and even educational management systems might arise from an over-reliance on Chinese grounds and technology. Moreover, before deploying DSR-supported metaverse education, it is crucial to consider a range of factors. These include high technical requirements, interoperability issues, cultural sensitivity, institutional resistance, strong cybersecurity measures, and data security and privacy. Additionally, the potential risk of data breaches must be carefully evaluated. Differences in technical maturity and digital literacy across participating nations might impede the deployment and acceptance of innovative digital solutions. By addressing these challenges proactively, the DSR can enhance its ability to promote the integration of metaverse technologies in education. This, in turn, will result in greater equity, security, and quality in educational opportunities worldwide. Hence, there is a prerequisite for the uniformity of regulations and intellectual property rights among the countries.

To achieve sustainable innovation and expansion in next-gen education, it is crucial to strike a balance between global collaboration and the emergence of local ecosystems. It is also important to address the potential for expanding the digital divide within countries and prioritise the establishment of equal rights to digital education roadways. Furthermore, we must consider the cost-efficiency of devices and internet connectivity, which might discourage economically disadvantaged students from engaging in metaverse learning. Next-gen education is a topic of great importance, progressing quickly. The way we currently perceive DSR could change from how it is playing its prominent role in the future.

Finally, the DSR fosters international alliances and cooperation among educational institutions, facilitating the exchange of information and resources and/or establishing the education hub via collaborative research activities, access to digital libraries, smart classrooms and developing the curriculum, and online learning community, among others. These initiatives aim to create a global classroom that extends cultural, time-dependent, and geographical boundaries. Realising this potential requires skilful management of the related problems, especially in data security, economic disparities, cybersecurity risks, regulatory preparation, and geopolitical dynamics. Last but not least, by improving digital infrastructure including digital library and online 3D content, fostering the adoption of emerging technologies such as cost-effective AR/VR devices, facilitating cross-border collaboration such as student exchange programmes, providing access to a variety of educational content, reaffirming educational resources i.e., building smart classroom, offering financial assistance, and promoting personalised growth for learners, China’s DSR has the potential to significantly impact the global progress and transformation into next-gen education such as metaverse education. These efforts can lead to more equitable, high-quality, and innovative educational experiences for students worldwide.

Dr Najmul Hasan is assistant professor in Information Systems, BRAC Business School, BRAC University.

Dr Md Rakibul Hoque is professor in Management Information Systems, Faculty of Business Studies, University of Dhaka.

Views expressed in this article are the authors’ own. 

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