Sweden opens embassy in cyberspace
By Lennart Simonsson May 30, 2007, 13:48 GMT
Stockholm - Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who writes a regular blog and in the early 1990s was one of the first heads of government to send an email while in office, opened a new Swedish embassy in cyberspace on Wednesday.
Bildt was guest of honour at the opening conducted at the headquarters of the Swedish Institute that promotes Sweden and Swedish interests abroad.
The foreign minister conducted the opening on his second visit to Second Life, a 3-D virtual world. After some manoeuvering he managed to collect a pair of scissors and position his alter ego, known as an avatar in the virtual world, in front of the blue and yellow ribbon.
Although it was 'just in the infancy,' Bildt said Second Life was likely to develop in the future 'much as was the case with Yahoo and Google' as well as recent phenomena such as You Tube.
The cyberspace-based embassy was modelled on the current Swedish embassy in Washington, known as House of Sweden, designed by architect Gert Wingardh.
Swedish Institute Director General Olle Wastberg, who for several months has had an avatar in Second World, said the institute's interest in Second Life was due to the fact that 'millions had signed up' as members.
Second Life, which opened in 2003, has some 6.5 million inhabitants of which '50,000 visit daily,' Wastberg said, noting that the average visitor was 27 years old.
The cyberspace-based embassy would however not issue passports or visas but rather link visitors to real embassies and agencies and offer information about many aspects of life in Sweden.
Wastberg said the aim was to inform other members of Second Life about Sweden - just as the Swedish Institute currently does, noting that the budget for the virtual embassy was 400,000 kronor (58,000 dollars).
The cyber embassy featured furniture from retail giant Ikea and also exhibited a dozen well-known art works from the National Musem.
Visitors were also able to see - but not taste - typical Swedish food served in a section of the embassy, ranging from meatballs to salmon - a click on each dish gives access to a recipe.
Other offerings included an exhibition on Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who is credited with saving the lives of thousands of Hungarian Jews during the Second World War.
The exhibition had interactive possibilities and clicking on photos or documents on display linked the visitor to more information.
Royalty-free photos of topics on Sweden were also available, said Swedish Institute project leader Stefan Geens, who added that future additions would include 'more modern art and video installations.'
More details on Second Life available on www.secondlife.com.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur