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Why the Government of Tuvalu is Recreating an Entire Country in the Metaverse


The Monkeys CCO Tara Ford speaks to LBB’s Delmar Terblanche about what climate change means for small island nations, and why digital transformation matters

Why the Government of Tuvalu is Recreating an Entire Country in the Metaverse

At the end of last year, the minister of justice, communication & foreign affairs of Tuvalu, Simon Kofe addressed COP27 with some disquieting news.

During a three-minute address, Mr. Kofe, together with The Monkeys, part of Accenture Song, made something very clear: The ongoing effects of climate change threaten the very existence of much of Tuvalu’s low-lying islands and islets. The threat is so severe that Tuvalu may eventually be forced to move its country entirely online. For the moment, it is at least cataloguing every facet or aspect of Tuvaluan culture - preserving in amber a country which may, one day soon, longer physically exist.

To emphasise this stark declaration, the camera slowly zooms out and reveals, through glitches and darkness, that the speech is already coming from the metaverse. It’s a wake-up call that The Monkeys is helping the Government of Tuvalu to navigate. CCO Tara Ford tells us more.


LBB>  What insights did you glean from the Tuvaluan Government in your initial meetings? 


Tara> It was really humbling and crucial for us to hear first-hand from the Minister Kofe and his team the challenges they are facing in the next 5, 10 and 50 years. As an island nation with a maximum height of four metres, they are in an extremely vulnerable position when it comes to the effects of climate change and sea level rises.  

We have incredible respect for the stance they are taking to ensure sovereignty and recognition of their borders and in preserving their culture and history as best they can. 


LBB> The idea of a country existing only virtually is such a stark image - how did you arrive at it? 


Tara> It is a stark image, just as the realities of what this nation is facing are stark. Moving to the metaverse is a practical solution for Tuvalu.  

It throws up so many questions: What happens to a country without land? How do you maintain statehood, sovereignty, and a connection to home when the physical place ceases to be habitable? How can you safeguard a history and sense of place in a way that does justice to the significant role it plays in people’s lives?  

The concept of The First Digital Nation is our attempt to answer some of those questions but also do it in such a way that those questions would continue to be asked. Because, and this can’t be stressed enough - the metaverse itself is not an easy alternative to a physical home, and it never could be. We wanted to make sure this concept could serve the Tuvaluan government’s dual aims: digital transformation, and a crucial wake-up call to the world.  

It was important that we were creating an announcement that still left the public aware there was time to act and save the real Tuvalu. The reality for the world is that whilst Tuvalu is the first to consider such a future, they certainly won’t be the last if climate change inaction continues.

LBB> Why did the digital archiving of Tuvaluan life best translate to the image of the Metaverse, and how did you arrive at the visual of the speech being delivered within it? 


Tara> The Minister’s speech at Cop26 last year made headlines the world over. Minister Kofe’s COP27 address was designed to introduce the beginning of a continuing project to catalogue, map, record and save as much of Tuvaluan island life as possible in the metaverse. The concept of a First Digital Nation is both a practical manifestation of the process to migrate a threatened nation online, and a sobering wake-up call to the world.

The metaverse plays a role not as an ‘alternate destination’, but as a last resort for preservation and recognition. It’s the ultimate provocation - and a step Tuvalu may have no choice but to take. The window for taking action on climate change is rapidly closing, so Tuvalu needed to catch the attention of people and governments the world over, and hear their call for immediate climate action. 

To highlight their need to embark on a migration of sorts from a beautiful, natural and physical place to a digital one, and one that is clearly in progress and open ended, we decided to place the Minister directly into that space, delivering an ominous lesson from his future nation. We wanted to signal what inaction on climate change might look like for all of us, a warning to all of us who do not act while we have the chance. 


LBB> Can you elaborate on the spot's shooting process?   How did you create such a seamless transition from a seemingly real news conference to the digital space of the metaverse?


Tara>The Minister and his team chose the islet of TeAfualiku to feature as the first part of the Digital Nation to move online. The build of this islet twin is based on footage, photos and mapping of the islet itself. To place the Minister into the environment he was filmed in Tuvalu delivering his speech against greenscreen. Working with the Tuvaluan team over whatsapp and zoom, Collider directed the filming of the speech so it was possible to place him in the environment we had created together. 


LBB> Why the decision to keep the whole spot in one shot?   


Tara> The Minister’s words, and the future he was describing, needed to be the main focus of the film so we wanted to reveal it gradually, almost imperceptibly. We didn’t want to give the viewer any respite or way out. We wanted to maintain the feeling of being almost trapped in a continual and never-ending digital void while creating the sense of a beautiful home slipping away from view as we pulled away. 


LBB> Aesthetically, the visuals are haunting - the darkness above, the seascape "glitching" into view like a video game world slowly loading into existence. Were these conscious decisions? How and why did you arrive at them? 


Tara> Yes they were. We wanted to make it clear this is the beginning of a process. Those imperfections hint at the sadness of trying to recreate something natural, alive and beautiful in a digital space. There is no true ‘like for like’ replacement for their home. That’s a really important distinction to make – if people take anything from viewing this ‘world’ we hope it would be that. TeAfuliku islet was painstakingly recreated in great detail, making it feel incredibly precious. But we also embraced the notion of it being a replica - the implications being a sense of sadness and loss. That was fundamental to the execution and communication. 


LBB> Who most needs to hear the message Minister Kofe is presenting in the campaign? 


Tara> The primary message in the speech is about climate action and mitigation. The most important outcome is that Tuvaluan voices are heard on the world stage and that the global public lend their support. The campaign has already reached over 2.1 billion people worldwide with people from 118 countries visiting It’s important that the film drive audiences to the site, to show support and take action to save the ‘real’ Tuvalu. 



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The Monkeys, Wed, 01 Feb 2023 06:40:54 GMT