Sweden trumped by Maldives in Second Life

The Maldives has pipped Sweden to the post by unveiling the world's first virtual embassy in Second Life just days before the Scandinavian country's planned launch.

Sweden received much international attention in January when it first announced plans to open an embassy in the virtual online world.

Sweden’s Second Life embassy, which opens on May 30th, is to be a replica of the House of Sweden in Washington DC.

Susanna Wallgren from the Swedish Institute has just received an e-mail informing her of the new Maldives embassy when we speak to her. She assures The Local that there is no sense of being upstaged by the island nation.

“Not at all. Good for them. It is great that more countries are realizing the importance of establishing a presence in Second Life,” she said.

The head of the Swedish Institute, Olle Wästberg, mentioned earlier this week that the project has cost a total of 400,000 kronor ($57,000). Next week Wästberg will be joined by Foreign Minister Carl Bildt – both in Second Life and at the Swedish Institute – for an inauguration ceremony to mark the opening of the new embassy.

But for now the spotlight is on the Maldives. The small island nation in the Indian Ocean has placed its virtual embassy in the Diplomatic Quarter of Diplomacy Island in Second Life.

“The Maldives is not the wealthiest island in the world. This can give people a contact with the Maldives that they might not otherwise have,” Stewart Gibbon from the Maldives Mission in Geneva told The Local.

He explains that he was not even aware of Sweden’s plans for online diplomatic representation until his boss happened to mention the fact.

“I suppose it’s nice to be first but this was not a deliberate attempt to beat Sweden to it,” he added.

At the time of writing there were around 6,500,000 residents living in the alternative reality of Second Life.