Second Life for Estonian embassy
Tech-savvy Baltic state Estonia is to open an embassy in the Internet fantasy world Second Life, joining the likes of Sweden and the Maldives, the foreign ministry said Friday.
"The virtual embassy will be located in the Second Life website, that has nearly 10 million registered users and already hosts a virtual site of Sweden,"Marten Kokk, deputy chancellor at the ministry, told AFP.
Second Life is a commercial online virtual world in which people -- and animals -- are represented by animated avatars and can do everything from social activities to shopping.
[Editor] See the Serious Games Conference where Second Life is being introduced by David Burden of Daden Ltd.
It has pulled in more than 9.2 million users since it was set up in 2003 by San Francisco-based Linden Labs.
Second Life and other virtual worlds are drawing a growing number of shops and companies that use them as a marketing vehicle, and professionals such as architects.
"The virtual embassy will not offer services like visa granting via the Internet, it's technically too complicated," said Kokk.
"But we will include the links to the sites of the foreign ministry where all relevant info for visa applicants and other consular services will be located, as well as a vast list of info about political, economic and cultural life."
The virtual embassy will be launched on November 11, marking the anniversary of the foreign ministry's establishment in 1918 when Estonia became fully independent.
The creation of the embassy will cost around 6,000 euros (8,200 dollars) and the ministry has already purchased some virtual land on Second Life for the project.
Kokk said that despite being a virtual embassy, "very real diplomats behind their desks" would be involved.
With relatively limited resources for its 29 missions around the world, the ministry hopes the virtual embassy will provide information on Estonia to countries where it has no diplomatic representation.
"The virtual embassy of Estonia will also have rooms, where we will arrange press conferences, lectures and exhibitions," Kokk explained.
Estonia, which is among the smallest EU countries with a population of 1.3 million, has been a pioneer of new technologies since it regained its independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991.
In March, it held the world's first parliamentary election in which voters could cast ballots online.