The City of Edmonton pushes the envelope with Second Life

I had the opportunity to chat with Chris Moore, CIO for the city of Edmonton, Canada. Chris and I have chatted before and it is
always a pleasure. Chris is entirely focused on delivering results and
is unafraid to leverage new strategies and tools to meet these goals.
One of the new tools Chris is using is Second Life from Linden Labs.
While Second Life has been around since 2003, the City of Edmonton is
just beginning to roll the tool out, as you can read about in this recent article.

As you can see in the picture to the left, Chris and I met in Second Life, a virtual world, to discuss
why Edmonton chose Second Life, the goals they have in mind, the
policies they will put in place. Before I go into our conversation here
are some statistics on the size of Second Life as it compares to other
tools you may be familiar with.

  • Second Life has a little more than 800,000 unique users logging in monthly.
  • Twitter has more than 100 million registered users with more than 10 million being considered active users.
  • Facebook has more than 400 million registered users, 50% of which login each day.
  • YouTube generates more than 1 billion views each day.

Second Life requires a slightly higher level of technical ability, a challenge that remains a major obstacle for growth in my opinion.

Chris has been interested in this platform for a while, having become excited by its potential value after hearing Pam Broviak
chatting with Adriel Hampton on Gov20 Radio about the platform.

What are the goals?

While initial goals focus on urban planning the reality is that Edmonton is also taking time to explore, to learn,what other
possibilities exist within Second Life. The following video shows a
Second Life example of a construction project underway in Cairo, Egypt.
In this case, the construction was first completed in Second Life,
giving users a rich platform with which they could get a feel for the
result before building. The construction is currently underway in real


This example is particularly relevant in Edmonton where there is a controversial project proposed to build a new arena. It is possible
that this will be modeled in Second Life, much like the Egyptian
project, and, if it wins enough support, will then be built in real

Second Life may also be an ideal location for scenario planning. For example, what would happen if an earthquake were to occur in downtown
Edmonton? How would citizens be evacuated?

What else can be done?

Meetings and training sessions are a common use case for Second Life. I would generally argue that there are superior platforms for
meetings, but as Chris states, “Choice is the new standard”. This
platform provides you with additional options. A couple of reasons that
Second Life could make sense for your next meeting:

  • It is free.
  • You can host 50 people in most locations while a few locations can scale to 200 people.
  • The feeling of being in person makes the discussion feel more personal.

This platform also provides benefits for training scenarios. Chris shared with me the story about a training session he attended for
doctors. Doctors, from various geographic locations, “met” in a
simulated operating room to train, to work through, various scenarios.

E-commerce is another use case worth paying attention to, although it is not a scenario Chris is paying much attention to in the short-term.
PlaySpan, a provider of payment and monetization solutions for online
games and virtual worlds, estimates that virtual goods will generate
$1.6 billion in the U.S. in 2010. A possibility could include retail
outlets, such as an Apple Store, where users could view products and buy
on-line, using virtual currency (which is easily exchanged for real

Policies, guidelines?

While construction in Second Life will be locked down to fit the vision for this environment, usage guidelines will grow somewhat more
organically. Expect employees to follow existing accepted use
guidelines, behaviors that are specific to Second Life are still being
observed, policies and guidelines will come as needed.

Are you using Second Life today? How is Second Life helping you reach your goals? Drop me a note, or stop by my virtual house to say hi in Second Life (my
name is Johnf Meriborne).


Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Stephen Peteritas

I suppose that Second Life could be useful for Gov 2.0 in the way you demonstrate in this post but here’s my biggest problem with Second Life: it doesn’t come without taking time out of real life. I would just rather have people or government for that matter maximizing time in the real world.

The theory of using Second Life as a government tool is interesting to think about I just don’t think it’s logical or time efficient at this point.

John Moore

Thanks for the note. Second Life is simply a tool and, as with any tool, should be used when it enables you to do something more efficiently, or simply better, than with some other alternative tool.

There are some valid use cases for Second Life as well as some use cases where there are other, cheaper and better alternatives. You have to determine what your goals are and match strategies and tools to these goals.

I think we agree, let me know if not.


John Moore

Thanks for the tip. I sat in on the meeting tonight and am very impressed with the efforts that are underway. -John

Carolina Laverde

Hi John,

I have recently starting looking into other immersive software’s like Second Life to understand potential uses for an organization. I came across – The Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds which is going on today and tomorrow and people can attend virtually for free. The last two panel discussions have provided a lot of ideas on current use and future use of immersive software. If you have time, take a look at their link. I think to truly appreciate the potential of a virtual world, we have to jump into and experience it first hand.

Some of the uses that were mentioned include training, recruiting, remote facility operations, communities of interest that share research, and continuity of operations. I was surprised to learn that the Army, Navy, and Air Force have come together to create Miland for training and technology purposes. The potential for collaboration is unlimited!



Carolina Laverde

Stephen- I just listened to the vGov Project Report. The panelists provided a recap of how agencies and components are using Second Life. The leading force behind this project is Dr. Paulette Robinson of the National Defense University- iCollege. I am still digesting all the incredible potential uses for Virtual worlds but I think it’s a good idea to put together a post with the highlights that I took.

John Mahan

@ Carolina – I’m attending the consortium now; and am still able to get the work done that is critical to my having a reasonably work free weekend. I think that is one of the greatest benefits to embracing the virtual workplace.

Thanks for the heads up!

Carolina Laverde

John-I completely agree that a virtual workplace is key to our work-life balance. I happen to fall under the category of what the Federal CIO calls the “Net Generation” and this just means I love flexibility and freedom 😉 I was able to attend the consortium from my home office. I am grateful to my organization for the ability to telework.